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Liberty Set to Close out In-State Stretch

April 22, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Leah Cossentino and the Lady Flames travel across the Commonwealth to face Norfolk State and Hampton this week.

Leah Cossentino and the Lady Flames travel across the Commonwealth to face Norfolk State and Hampton this week.

Wednesday – April 23
Liberty vs. Norfolk State (Norfolk, Va.)
Game 1 – Live Stats (1 p.m.)
Game 2 – Live Stats (3 p.m.)

Thursday – April 24
Liberty vs. Hampton (Hampton, Va.)
Game 1 – Live Stats (11 a.m.)
Game 2 – Live Stats (1 p.m.)

The Lady Flames softball team will finish up an 11-game stretch against in-state opponents with a pair of midweek, non-conference doubleheaders this week at Norfolk State and Hampton.

Due to continual rains in the Tidewater area over the past 48 hours, the midweek schedule was altered, moving Liberty's double dip with Hampton from Tuesday to Thursday.

Liberty (9-34-1, 3-6 Big South) will now open the eastern trip with a doubleheader against Norfolk State tomorrow, beginning at 1 p.m. in Norfolk, Va., at the NSU Softball Field. The Lady Flames will conclude the two-day road swing with a twinbill against Hampton at Lady Pirates Field on Thursday, starting at 11 a.m.

The Lady Flames haven't had much success during its recent go around against in-state foes, dropping seven straight against Commonwealth programs, as part of an eight-game losing streak.

The latest setbacks came at the hands of their arch rival, Radford, as the Highlanders swept the weekend three-game, split-location series with Liberty capped by an 8-6 win on Sunday at the Liberty Softball Field.

A Sneak Peak at the Spartans
Norfolk State and Liberty have something in common, as both programs suffered sweeps at the hands of Longwood last week. The Spartans mustered just two hits over 14 innings of action against Longwood, recording a single hit during both contests.

The loss dropped Norfolk State's record back to 16-24 on the year and closed out a nine-game road swing for the Spartans.

Rebecca Barnes leads Norfolk State from the plate, as the sophomore is batting .361 with 24 runs scored, six doubles, four home runs, 21 RBIs and a .578 slugging percentage.

The Spartans have three other regular starters boasting a batting average above .300, as Jewel White (.354, 20 runs, six doubles), Jeannette Sauceda (.317, 20 runs, 13 doubles, 30 RBIs) and Micki Rodriguez (.301, 25 runs, five doubles) have helped Norfolk State post a .291 team batting average.

Rodriguez and Sarah Wittwer have evenly split Norfolk State's starts from inside the circle on the year. Rodriguez is 6-11 with a 4.71 ERA, while Wittwer is 5-9 with a 4.77 ER, as the Spartans are averaging more than four earned per game as a team on the season.

Series with the Spartans
Liberty is a perfect 6-0 during its previous meetings with Norfolk State, dating back to the 1997 season. The two squads have squared off for doubleheaders the last two years, with Liberty sweeping homestanding Norfolk State, 7-4 and 7-3, on April 22, 2006. Last year, the Lady Flames pitching dominated on March 28, with Liberty sweeping a home doubleheader, 2-0 and 4-1.

Taking a Peak at the Pirates
Hampton comes into Thursday's game having won three straight, five out of their last six and 20 out of its last 24 games. The 20 victories include a stretch of 11-straight wins to help raise the Pirates' record to 24-12 and 7-1 in the MEAC.

Angela Balser paces the way for the Pirates with an impressive .429 batting average, to go along with 26 runs scored, 10 doubles, three triples, six home runs and 37 RBIs.

Hampton has three players on its roster with 10 or more stolen bases, helping the Pirates swipe nearly 60 bases on the season. Leading the way is Brittany Davis, as the senior has stolen 11 bases, while batting .365 from the plate with a team-high 32 runs scored.

Amanda Black has started 21 out of 36 games for the Pirates this year, posting a 14-7 record with 17 complete games. The junior has posted a 2.83 ERA in 136.2 innings of work to go along with 91 strikeouts.

The Past with the Pirates
Hampton is Liberty's most frequent non-conference opponent, as the Lady Flames and the Pirates have met on the softball diamond 36 times since Liberty reinstated its program in 1994.

Liberty leads the series, 30-6, which includes a pair of victories last year when the Lady Flames downed Hampton twice en route to the title at the Blue Ridge Thunder tournament in Lynchburg.
During Liberty's last visit to the Tidewater area in 2006, Liberty and Hampton split the series. Liberty won the opener, 11-2, while the homestanding Pirates salvaged a split with a 7-6 victory during the nightcap.

Eight Not So Great
Liberty enters the pair of non-conference doubleheaders with Norfolk State and Hampton riding an eight-game losing streak. This losing trend is Liberty's second longest of the year, as the Lady Flames dropped 12-straight early this season, which marked a program record.

King of the Hill
Ashley Williams continues to etch her name into the Liberty record books, as the senior became the program's all-time hits leader over the weekend. Her solo home run, the 40th of her career, against Radford on Saturday propelled her over Jessica Moore, who finished her three-year career at Liberty with 229 career hits.

Next on the List
Ashley Williams, Liberty's all-time career leader in hits and RBIs, needs three more doubles to tie Shannon Tanski for the program's career record of 47 doubles. The senior also needs two more games played to crack Liberty's all-time games played list at No. 5, having seen action in 224 games over her four-year career.

Racking up Runs
Over the weekend, Liberty had its fourth-highest run total in a game this year, when the Lady Flames dropped the series finale, 8-6, to Radford on Sunday. Liberty also scored six runs in a 7-6 game-one loss to Virginia on April 9. The Lady Flames followed in the next game by overcoming a six-run deficit to win 9-6 against the Cavaliers, marking the team's highest run production of the season.

Early Senior Salute
Even though Liberty will host its home finale next week in a non-conference doubleheader with future Big South foe Gardner-Webb, the Lady Flames are going to honor their seniors prior to Saturday's series finale against Winthrop. Accolades for a trio of players will be read prior to the opening pitch, as senior's Shannon McKain and Ashley Williams will be honored, along with junior Courtney Johnson, who will be graduating from Liberty in May.