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LU Continues Big South Play Against Coastal
Following a pair of doubleheaders against opponents from the SEC and the ACC, Liberty welcomes the opportunity to return to Big South action this weekend. The Lady Flames will travel to Conway, S.C., for a three-game set against Coastal Carolina.
The two squads will square off in a doubleheader on Saturday, with the first pitch of the afternoon slated for 2 p.m. Liberty and Coastal Carolina will conclude the three-game conference series with the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Earlier in the week, the Lady Flames went toe-to-toe with one of the nation's top-ranked programs, when Liberty continued a five-year string by facing Tennessee. The Lady Vols, ranked No. 10 at the time of the game, needed all 14 innings during the doubleheader to fend off the Lady Flames, as Liberty combined to pound out nine hits during the afternoon twinbill.
Less than 24 hours after leaving Knoxville, Tenn., the Lady Flames found themselves back on the softball diamond, this time hosting in-state opponent Virginia.
A seventh-inning rally fell one run shy during the opener, which saw the ACC foe record a 7-6 victory. The prospects of a win in game two looked bleak after two innings, as Liberty committed three errors, which led to a 6-0 lead for Virginia.
However, the Lady Flames slowly clawed their way back into the game and eventually went ahead with three runs in the sixth to complete an improbably comeback victory, scoring nine-unanswered runs.
Charting the Chanticleers
Coastal Carolina comes into the weekend series having dropped six out of its last eight contests. The pair of victories to break up the string of losses came in a doubleheader sweep over Charleston Southern at home last Sunday.
The weekend set of games will bring to a close four-straight home match-ups for Coastal Carolina, who sports a 16-27 overall record and a 4-2 mark in Big South play.
The Chanticleers currently stand in second place in the conference standings, ranking just one victory behind defending champion and current first-place team Winthrop.
Verity Long-Droppert paces the Chanticleers' offense, batting .351 with nine doubles, five home runs, 22 RBIs and a .565 slugging percentage. Speedster Laicole Walker leads the team with 24 runs scored and ranks second in the Big South with 14 stolen bases (out of 15 attempts).
The Chanticleers team ERA of 2.94 ranks second to last in the Big South, as Coastal Carolina has surrendered nearly 200 runs (195) over 43 games (allowing an average of 4.53 runs per game).
Ashley Frederick leads a trio of pitchers from inside the circle, having posted a 2.51 ERA to go along with an 8-13 record. Ashley Pederson ranks behind Frederick with a 2.93 ERA and a 6-8 overall record.
A Glance at the Series
The Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina series is one of the oldest in Big South history, which the Chanticleers currently lead with a 24-16 mark. Last year, the two squads split four games, as Liberty took two out of three from the Chanticleers at home during the regular season.
However, Coastal Carolina got a win when it greatly needed one, knocking No. 1 seed Liberty out of the Big South Softball Championship, 7-4, en route to the Chanticleers run to the title game.
Two Lady Flames enter the Big South series with Coastal Carolina sporting lengthy hitting streaks. Beth Bennett has successfully recorded a hit during 15-straight games, which is tied for the longest hitting streak by a Lady Flame over the last seven years. Amanda Maska also had a 15-game hitting streak during the 2004.
Following closely behind Bennett is Ashley Williams, as the senior has safely hit during the last 11 games, bettering her previous career record of nine straight set as a freshman in 2005.
Beth Bennett and Ashley Williams' current double-digit hitting streak has helped the pair of Lady Flames better their batting averages. Bennett's 15-straight hitting streak has helped the junior raise her average almost 90 points (from .260 to .343). Williams' 11-game hitting streak has upped the senior's average by nearly 70 points (from .203 to .269).
Next on the List
Now that Ashley Williams is the program's all-time career RBIs leader with 152 runners driven in, the senior has her sights set on two new records. Williams currently ranks third in hits (225) and doubles (44).
She needs five more hits to break Jessica Moore's record of 229 and four additional doubles to surpass Shannon Tanski's mark of 47 doubles. She is also tied for second with 37 home runs, but standings a lengthy distance away from Moore's staggering number of 58 career home runs.
The Lady Flames have experienced much success since coming home to the Liberty Softball Field. The squad has won five out of nine home games this year and is scoring 4.3 runs per contest at the on-campus facility. Liberty is 3-21-1 in games played away from Lynchburg (0-8 away and 3-13-1 neutral), averaging 1.3 runs per contest during those 25 games.
Long Ball Leaving the Home Park
Liberty clocked three home runs during its doubleheader against Virginia on Wednesday, giving the Lady Flames 11 home runs at home this year, as compared to six away from the Liberty Softball Field.
Leader of the Pack
Entering the week, Dana Wheeler leads the nation in fewest walks allowed per seven innings pitched. The lefty came into the week averaging 0.28 walks per seven innings, having allowed three walks during 76 innings of work.
Ranking behind Wheeler, who now has walked four batters during 81 innings, is Cleveland State's Amanda Macenko, who has walked 12 batters over 122 1/3 innings (0.69 per seven innings pitched).
Go Speed Racer, Go
Catchers Keely McMillon and Ashley Williams are going to have to be at their best over the weekend, as Coastal Carolina comes into the Big South series leading the conference in stolen bases. The Chanticleers have successfully swiped 48-of-52 stolen base attempts. Five players have six or more stolen bases on the year.
The good news for Liberty is that the Lady Flames lead the Big South in throwing out positional base stealers. On the season, Liberty has thrown out 15 base runners.
A Hit Parade
The Lady Flames bats stayed hot against Virginia on Wednesday, as Liberty combined to tally 22 total base hits during the doubleheader. During the second game, which saw Liberty overcome a six-run deficit for victory, Liberty pounded out a season-best 13 hits.
Liberty has recorded seven or more hits during nine of its last 14 games, helping raise the team's batting averaging over 40 percentage points.
A Look Ahead
Following Liberty's weekend set against Coastal Carolina, the Lady Flames will play two non-conference doubleheaders during the middle of next week, before returning to league play on the weekend.
All three of Liberty's opponents for next week hail from inside the Commonwealth, starting with a home twinbill against Longwood on Tuesday. Liberty will face its third nationally ranked opponent when the Lady Flames play at No. 19 Virginia Tech on Wednesday.
The Lady Flames will close out the week with a split three-game series with arch rival Radford. The two squads will square off for two games in Radford on Saturday, followed by the series finale in Lynchburg on Sunday.