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Liberty Returns to Diamond at Pirate Clash

February 28, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Jessica Leary and the Lady Flames return to action this weekend, when Liberty travels to Greenville, N.C., for the Pirate Clash, hosted by East Carolina.

Jessica Leary and the Lady Flames return to action this weekend, when Liberty travels to Greenville, N.C., for the Pirate Clash, hosted by East Carolina.

A youthful Lady Flames softball squad will return to the softball diamond this weekend, when Liberty travels to Greenville, N.C., to participate in the Pirate Clash, hosted by East Carolina. Games will be played at both the ECU Softball Field and at a near-by field located at North Pitt High School.

Liberty, boasting of a roster which includes eight newcomers, including seven freshmen, posted a 1-2-1 record during its opening tournament last weekend at the College of Charleston Cougar Classic, played at Patriots Point in Charleston, S.C.

The Lady Flames opened the four-game event with the program's first tie history since 1983. Freshman Amber DePasquale clocked her first collegiate home run just prior to the game's third and final rain day on Friday, allowing the contest with Tennessee Tech to end in a 2-2 tie.

Saturday's action included a split for Liberty, as Towson opened the day with an 11-1 victory over the Lady Flames in the morning. Dana Wheeler secured the Lady Flames' first victory of the year, tossing a gem against Kennesaw State, who was fresh off a 7-0 blanking of Towson.

Wheeler fanned a career-high 12 batters, while allowing just a fifth-inning double during a seven-inning, complete-game victory to lead Liberty to a 7-0 win over the Owls. Liberty closed out the weekend, falling 2-1 to N.C. State in a pitcher's duel on Sunday.

Beth Bennett led the Lady Flames over the weekend, batting .500 during the four-game stretch, as she went 5-for-10 with two runs scored, a home run and a team-high four RBI. Freshman Cassie Hendrix followed closely behind, going 2-for-3 in games against Tennessee Tech and N.C. State to finish the weekend batting .364 with two runs scored.

Liberty opens play at the Pirate Clash, a tournament the Lady Flames have frequented three out of the last four years, Friday against Delaware (2 p.m.) and host East Carolina (4 p.m.). The Lady Flames close out pool play on Saturday against Fordham (10 a.m.) and Towson (2 p.m.).

Championship bracket play kicks off on Sunday morning at 9 a.m., with the title game scheduled for 1 p.m., at ECU Softball Field.

LibertyFlames.com will continue its game-by-game coverage of the Lady Flames' 2008 season by providing LIVE in-game stats for all games this weekend, beginning with Liberty's match-up with the Blue Hens on Friday.

Scouting the Pirate Clash Field

Delaware (0-0) vs. Liberty – Friday at 2 p.m. (North Pitt High School Field)
Liberty's first opponent in the Pirate Clash will be the Blue Hens of Delaware. The match-up will be Delaware's second game of the tournament and the year, as the Blue Hens open their season at the tournament against UNC Greensboro at Noon.

Delaware is coming off a 16-23-3 campaign in 2007 and is predicted to finish seventh in the annual Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll. The Blue Hens return eight starters from last year, while welcoming four newcomers to the roster.

Kim Ovittore looks to lead Delaware during the year, as the returning second-team all-conference honoree paced the Blue Hens in 2007 with a .369 batting average, 24 runs scored, 14 doubles, 29 RBI and a .567 slugging percentage. A pair of speedsters also return in seniors Allison Borchers and Katie Lee, who led the team with 11 and nine stoles bases, respectively, last year.

Carolyn Sloat, Delaware's No. 1 starter with a 10-16 record, graduated last year, leaving returning hurlers Michelle Kenney and Samatha Shawn in the circle. Kenney ranked second on the team with a 2.52 ERA and a 2-2 record, while Shawn was 4-8 in 17 starts, posting a 3.36 ERA and 50 strikeouts.

East Carolina (11-4) vs. Liberty – Friday at 4 p.m. (ECU Softball Field)
Host East Carolina is off to another solid start in 2008, having posted an 11-4 record early in the year. The Pirates finished with a 2-2 mark during last weekend's Pirate Classic, posting wins over Syracuse and Appalachian, while falling to Purdue and Penn State.

The previous weekend, East Carolina hosted its first of three-straight weekend events at the ECU Softball Field, sweeping five straight to claim the title at the Pirate Invitational.

The Pirates like to pound out the extra base hits in 2008, tallying 34 over the first 15 games, including 19 doubles and 13 home runs. East Carolina also is quick on the base paths, swiping 16 bases, with nine players having at least one stolen base.

Leadoff hitter and outfielder Charina Summer leads the squad with a .408 batting average, to go along with seven runs, three doubles, a triple, a home run and 10 RBI. She also leads the squad with five stolen bases. Fellow outfielder Christina Merrida, who follows Summer in the batting order at No. 2, ranks second on the team with a .383 average to go along with a team-best eight runs scored.

Junior hurler Brooke Swann leads a trio of pitchers, having started eight out of 15 games. The righty has posted a 6-2 record inside the circle, to go along with a 1.56 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 54.0 innings of work.

Fordham (2-6) vs. Liberty – Saturday at 10 a.m. (ECU Softball Field)
Fordham is off to a 2-6 start, following tournament appearances at the Bulldog Round Robin in Starkville, Miss., and the Palm Springs Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. The Rams were winless in four games on the West Coast, which included a 9-1 loss to No. 19 Ohio State and a setback to the U.S. National team in an exhibition match-up.

Fordham's two victories on the year came during competition at the Bulldog Round Robin, hosted by Mississippi State. The Rams downed Wright State twice during the event in high-scoring action, winning the first 12-7 and the second 11-9.

Fordham boasts five starters with a batting average above .300, led by utility player Jocelyn Dearborn's .464 average, two home runs and 11 RBI. Leadoff hitter Allison Twarowski follows with a .357 mark from the plate, while leading the team with seven runs scored and two stolen bases.

Nicole Ayers guides the Rams' pitching staff with a 2-3 record, despite a 6.36 ERA. The sophomore has fanned 20 batters in 22.0 innings of work, and surrendered 10 of her 20 earned runs in a 12-8 season-opening loss to Southern Illinois.

Towson (1-3) vs. Liberty – Saturday at 2 p.m. (North Pitt High School Field)
For the second-straight weekend, Liberty and Towson will meet in a tournament, when the Lady Flames close out pool-play action against the Tigers, Saturday afternoon.

Towson's lone victory during last weekend's stay at the College of Charleston Cougar Classic came at the hands of Liberty. The Tigers scored five runs during the first two innings, before ending the 11-1 game in the sixth with five more, including a walk-off grand slam.

Shannon Johnston picked up the victory for the Tigers, scattering eight hits over six innings of work, while fanning three batters in the complete-game effort.

Tiffani Smith suffered the loss in her first collegiate start, surrendering five runs, two of which were earned, on two hits, while walking five and fanning two. Sarah Ellis finished off the final four-plus inning by allowing six earned runs on four hits, walking three and striking out four.

Stephanie Fudurich led the Tigers from the plate, as the first baseman was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and a RBI. Nina Navarro scored three times, while Stef Streets drove in five total, including the grand slam homer to end the game.

Beth Bennett and Leah Cossentino led the Lady Flames from the plate, with both players going 2-for-3 from the plate. J'nae Jefferson drove in the lone run for Liberty, as the sophomore was 1-for-2 on the day.

UNC Greensboro (7-7)
UNC Greensboro has played the second most games of the seven teams in the Pirate Clash field, having posted a 7-7 record to start the 2008 year. The Spartans are coming off 3-1 setback to in-state opponent N.C. State on Wednesday, while posting a 3-1 mark during tournament play at the Seahawk Classic last weekend.

UNC Greensboro is paced by senior outfielder Mary Greenway, who is hitting at a .400 clip from the plate, to go along with a team-best eight runs scored, three home runs and 14 stolen bases. In total, the Spartans have swiped 28 bases during the first 14 games of the year.

Amber Harrell (4-4, 1.72 ERA) and Hannah Angel (3-3, 2.47 ERA) lead the Spartans pitching staff inside the circle. Last year, Liberty roughed up Harrell for seven runs, five of which were earned, on five hits during seven innings of work, while she allowed six walks and fanned seven Liberty batters.

Radford (8-3)
The final team in the field for this weekend's event is quite familiar with Liberty, as the Lady Flames' in-state and Big South rival Radford Highlanders will be leaving the New River Valley to travel to Greenville, N.C.

Radford is the Big South's hottest team to begin the 2008 slate, opening the season with an 8-3 record. The Highlanders claimed victory during eight out of their first nine contests, including three straight to open play Littlewood Classic. However, No. 2 and host Arizona State snapped the run with a 16-2 victory last Saturday in Tempe, Ariz., followed by Iowa's come-from-behind 5-4 victory on Sunday.

The Highlanders, the Big South's preseason No. 2 pick behind reigning champion Winthrop, are paced offensively by third baseman Vicki Madden, who is batting .412 with two runs scored, two home runs and eight RBI. Catcher Sarah Himan followed closely behind, as she is batting .367 with six runs scored, three doubles, a triple and seven RBI.

Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year honoree Ashley Taylor has posted a 3-2 record to go along with a 1.76 ERA, fanning 33 batters in 39.2 innings pitched. Rookie hurler Rebecca Whalley leads the team with a 4-1 record, while posting a 2.28 ERA.