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Phillips Homers Liberty Past Rider, 4-3
With the victory, the Flames run their record to 5-0 on the season, while the Broncs fall to 3-1. Liberty moves to 25-5 in openers at Worthington Stadium.
After Rider plated a run in the top of the seventh frame to knot the score at 3-3, Phillips (Sr., Claremore, Okla.) hammered an 0-1 pitch from reliever Mike Thomas over the left field wall for his first home run of the season and a 4-3 Liberty advantage.
A one-run cushion was all Flames right-hander Dustin Umberger (Jr., RHP, Hummelstown, Pa.) needed, as the reliever retired the Broncs in order in both the eighth and ninth innings, sealing the victory. The junior struck out five Rider hitters, all on called third strikes, to record his first save of the year.
Liberty opened the scoring with a pair of runs with two out in the third inning. Designated hitter Garrett Young (Sr., Fountain Valley, Calif.) beat out an infield hit to begin the two-out uprising. Aaron Grijalva (Sr., 1B, Redlands, Calif.) followed with a double off the top of the center-field wall, cashing in Young for a 1-0 Flame edge. P.K. Keller (Sr., RF, Clearwater, Fla.) then delivered Grijalva with a liner through the left side of the infield to stake Liberty to a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth frame, the Flames upped their advantage to 3-0. Third baseman David Giammaresi (Sr., Coral Springs, Fla.) singled to open the inning and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Tim Rotola (Jr., CF, Wichita, Kan.). After taking third on a balk, Giammaresi came home on a sacrifice bunt by Phillips.
Rider took advantage of a Liberty error in the top of the sixth to cut its deficit to 3-2. Right fielder A.J. Albee led off the inning with a single. Catcher Sean Olson followed by singling through the middle. When his single was misplayed by Flames center fielder Rotola, Albee came around to score the Broncs' first run of the contest and Olson advanced to third. Third baseman Mason Heyne then brought home the runner at third with a sacrifice fly.
In the top of the seventh inning, Rider temporarily tied the contest on another RBI single by Liese, before Phillips' game-winning round tripper in the bottom of the frame.
Liberty starter Clarence Nicely (Sr., RHP, Milton, W.Va.) allowed three runs, one earned, on seven hits over the first 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander struck out five and walked two. Dane Beakler (Jr., RHP, York, Pa.) entered in the seventh frame with one out and a runner on second base. The left-hander retired both batters he faced, picking up his first victory of the season before giving way to Umberger.
Rider starter Mike Petrowski allowed three runs on six hits over five innings. He was relieved by Thomas, who took the loss to fall to 0-1 on the year.
Young, Grijalva and Phillips had two hits apiece for the Flames, while no Bronc hitter had more than one hit in the contest.
Rider and Liberty will square off again in the middle contest of the three-game weekend series tomorrow. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Worthington Stadium.