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Lady Flames Claim Seahawk Classic Championship With Victory Over UNC Wilmington
Shannon McKain's RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning drove in the winning run in a 4-3 victory over host UNC Wilmington, Sunday afternoon, giving the Lady Flames the championship at the Seahawk Classic.
The victory completes a perfect 5-0 season-opening weekend for the Lady Flames and marks the first time in the history of the program that Liberty has started a season with five-straight victories.
Liberty got on the scoreboard first in the top of the first inning as Jessica Moore led of the frame with a single to left field and advanced to second on her team-leading fourth stolen base of the year. After moving to third on a groundout by Beth Bennett, Moore crossed the plate on an RBI base hit back up the middle by Ashley Williams to give Liberty a quick 1-0 lead.
The score remained the same until the top of the fourth as Jessica Sanders broke up a perfect game with a single up the middle, while Krista Searle halted the possibility of a shutout with a two-run homer to straightaway center field to give UNC Wilmington a 2-1 edge.
Liberty answered back in the bottom half of the frame as Williams connected on her first homer of the year, send the shot well over the fence in center field to knot the score at 2-2.
UNC Wilmington regained the lead in top of the sixth inning as Hayley House led off the frame with a single to right field. After advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sanders and to third on a single to left field by Ali Gardner, House was able to score the go-ahead run on an RBI pinch hit off the bat of Brittany Wilkins to give the homestanding Seahawks a 3-2 lead.
But once again, the Lady Flames answered back as Williams got her third base hit of the game to start off the inning with a double down the left-field line, while later scoring on a fielder's choice play as Claire Fridey's grounder was fielded and thrown to the plate, but not in time to get Williams as Liberty tied the game at 3-3 heading into the seventh.
After halting a mild threat in the top of the seventh, Moore started off the bottom of the frame with a single through the left side of the infield and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dawn Jeffs. Beth Bennett followed with an infield single off the pitcher to give the Lady Flames runners at first and second with one out, while Williams grounded into a fielder's choice as the Seahawks were able to get the lead runner in Moore out a third.
But McKain choose to get her third hit of the weekend at the best time as she lined one off the glove of House at second base, allowing Bennett to score from second and to give the Lady Flames the tournament title with the victory.
Williams led the Lady Flames from the plate as she was 3-of-4 from the plate with two runs scored and two RBI, while Moore was 2-of-4 with a run scored. Bennett and McKain finished the contest 1-of-4 from the plate with Bennett scoring the game winner on McKain's RBI bas hit.
Swor upped her record to 3-0 on the year as she allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings of work, while fanning eight batters. Gardner picked up the loss in the game as she allowed two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings of work, while starting pitcher Jess Luckett allowed two runs on four hits in the first five innings of the game.
Swor, who finished the week with a perfect 3-0 record, hit her first career home run with a two-run shot to win the tournament opener and struck out 17 batters in 17 innings of work, was named the tournament MVP. Terra Lowe and Williams joined Swor on the all-tournament team as Lowe was 1-0 on the mound with a two-run homer at the plate and Williams finished the five-game tournament with a .316 batting average with three runs scored and six RBI.
The Lady Flames return to the softball diamond next weekend when they travel to Greenville, N.C. to participate in the Pirate Clash, hosted by East Carolina. Liberty opens tournament play against East Carolina (1:30 p.m.) and Binghamton (3:30 p.m.) on Friday and Francis Marion (9 a.m.) and Delaware (11 a.m.) on Saturday. The tournament will conclude with a championship round on Sunday.