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LU to Open Home Slate against UNC Greensboro

March 24, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The Lady Flames will open up their 2008 home schedule tomorrow afternoon against UNC Greensboro with a non-conference doubleheader.

The Lady Flames will open up their 2008 home schedule tomorrow afternoon against UNC Greensboro with a non-conference doubleheader.

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Following a 23-game road tour of the Carolinas and Florida to begin the year, the Lady Flames softball team will open the home portion of their 2008 schedule tomorrow afternoon. Liberty is scheduled to host UNC Greensboro at the Liberty Softball Field for a doubleheader, with the opening pitch slated for 2 p.m.

The Lady Flames are coming off a seven-day hiatus from the softball diamond, not having played a game since wrapping up their annual spring break swing with a doubleheader against St. Louis on March 17.

Liberty (3-19-1) split the non-conference twinbill with the Billikens, snapping a program-record, 13-game losing streak with a game-two victory.

In the opening game, the Lady Flames' bats pounded out a season-high nine hits, but Liberty stranded all nine base runners to suffer a 1-0 setback. Liberty's bats stayed hot in the second game with eight hits, which led to three runs, en route to a 3-0 victory to close out a 12-day excursion throughout the Sunshine State.

Dana Wheeler led the Lady Flame to the victory from the circle, scattering five hits to earn her second complete-game shutout of the year. The lefty fanned 10 batters, marking her second-highest strikeout total of the year.

First baseman Beth Bennett paced Liberty's 17-hit effort during the doubleheader, going 2-for-3 during both games with three doubles. The junior's consecutive two-hit games extended her hitting streak to four games and pushed her batting average back above .300 for the year (.313).

Liberty's contest against the Spartans is one of eight opponents the Lady Flames will welcome to its on-campus facility this year. UNC Greensboro enters the game with a 9-18 overall record, having dropped eight straight and 11 out of the last 12 contests.

Fans unable to make the trek up to the Liberty Softball Field will have two different avenues to follow the Lady Flames' action against the former Big South foe.

LibertyFlames.com will once again be providing live in-game statistics via its Live Stat feature, while the Flames Sports Network will kick off its 2008 radio coverage. WWMC 90.9 FM "The Light" will broadcast both games, which can be heard in Lynchburg and on the internet by audio stream.

Spotlighting the Spartans
UNC Greensboro's 3-1 record at the Seahawk Classic to close out the month of February pushed the Spartans above the .500 mark at 7-6. However, UNC Greensboro has struggled since returning from the Wilmington area, losing eight straight and 11 out of its last 12 games.

Fresh off a three-game sweep by Southern Conference-leading Chattanooga, UNC Greensboro is paced by senior outfielder Mary Greenway. The native of Roanoke, Va., is batting .301 with a team-best nine runs scored and is a perfect 20-out-of-20 in stolen base attempts.

Sophomore backstop Whitney Sirois ranks just behind Greenway, as the catcher is batting .284 at the dish with two doubles and four RBI.

Underclassman Amber Harrell leads the Spartans from the circle with a 6-9 record to go along with a 2.14 ERA. The sophomore has fanned 108 batters during 101 1/3 innings of work, tossing 12 complete games, including four shutouts.

Last Time Versus the Spartans
Tuesday's twinbill marks the third-straight year Liberty and UNC Greensboro have squared off in a non-conference doubleheader. The past two years, the two squads split the double dip, including last year. Liberty won the opener, 4-2, in eight innings, while the Spartans took the nightcap, 10-7. UNC Greensboro leads the overall series, 21-7, dating back to 1996.

During the opener last season, both teams scored runs in the sixth, but Liberty broke a 2-2 tie when Ashley Williams drilled a two-RBIs double down the left-field line to propel the Lady Flames to victory. Williams was 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the game, while Beth Bennett was 2-for-3 with the remaining two RBI. Sarah Ellis finished off the final inning to record her school-record fourth save of the year.

During the second game, UNC Greensboro scored 10 runs over a four-inning span to secure the three-run victory. Shannon McKain was 1-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, while J'nae Jefferson was 1-for-3 with a run scored and plated another. Ellis was roughed up for five runs on five hits during the first two innings of the game, while Dana Wheeler allowed two runs on six hits during the final 2 1/3 inning of the game.

Happy to be Home
Over the past two seasons, Liberty has record 30 victories at the Liberty Softball Field. Liberty was 15-7 in 2006, while bettering their winning percentage with a 15-4 mark last year. During the Lady Flames' 14-year run at the on-campus facility, Liberty has posted a 143-105 mark (.577 winning percentage).

Opening on a Positive Note at Home
Under head coach Paul Wetmore, the Lady Flames have posted an 11-3 record during their first home game of the year. Liberty has been the victor during its last two homer openers, defeating Norfolk State, 2-0, in 2007 and Mount St. Mary's, 1-0, in 2006. Liberty's last home-opening defeat came at the hands of No. 8 Tennessee, when the Vols downed Liberty, 8-1, on March 22, 2005.

Bats Coming Alive
Liberty's bats started to warm up during the latter part of its spring break trip. The Lady Flames pounded out 29 hits during the final four games of the swing, averaging 7.3 hits per contest. During the first 10 games of the Sunshine State swing, Liberty collected 28 hits (2.8 per contest).

Some Much-Needed Rest
Tuesday's doubleheader against UNC Greensboro will be Liberty's first since closing out its spring break trip to Florida on March 17. Following the twinbill, the Lady Flames will not return to the softball diamond until Liberty hosts in-state foe James Madison on April 2, meaning the doubleheader is the Lady Flames' sole competition during a 15-day stretch. Liberty opened the year by playing 23 games over a 25-day span.

New Faces
Fans will certainly need to grab a scorecard when they come to the Liberty Softball Field on Tuesday. Not only will they need the game roster to be able to identify those wearing the navy and gold jerseys of UNC Greensboro, but also the ones in Liberty's red, white and blue uniforms. Liberty's roster of 16 players includes nine newcomers in 2008. Eight are freshmen, while Miranda Fielder rounds out the new faces as a junior transfer.

Wonderful Wheeler
Dana Wheeler's first-inning walk during Liberty's game against Dartmouth, to close out the USF Under Armour Showcase on March 16, snapped a 35-inning streak. The lefty had tossed 35 innings without surrendering a walk. On the year, the sophomore has fanned 71 batters during 55 1/3 innings of work, while allowing just two free passes.

On the Airways
Tuesday's doubleheader marks the return of Lady Flames softball to the radio airways. The Flames Sports Network will broadcast both contests against the Spartans, accounting for the first of seven twinbills the radio network will air during the course of the 2008 season.

The sports network, which can be heard on the radio dial at 90.9 FM or online at www.thelightonline.com, will also cover Liberty's competition at the Big South Softball Championship, May 8-10, in Rock Hill, S.C.

2008 Flames Sports Network Radio Broadcast Schedule:
3/25 – vs. UNC Greensboro – 2 p.m.
4/2 – vs. James Madison – 2 p.m.
4/4 – vs. Birmingham-Southern – 2 p.m.
4/9 – vs. Virginia – 2 p.m.
4/20 – vs. Radford – 2:30 p.m.
4/25 – vs. Winthrop – 2 p.m.
4/29 – vs. Gardner-Webb – 2 p.m.
5/8-10 – Big South Championship – Rock Hill, S.C.