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Sixth-Inning Burst Lifts Liberty to Sweep
With the game-two victory, the Lady Flames sweep the afternoon double dip and up their record to 13-34-1 on the year. The win gives Liberty its first four-game winning streak of the season. The loss drops Hampton to 24-14 following the Pirates' second-straight setback.
Hampton jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, thanks to a pair of singles straight back through the box. For the second-straight game, Evelyn Garcia led off the contest with a single up the middle.
Following consecutive sacrifice bunts by Ashley Weisserbach and Brittany Davis, starting pitcher Jada Jeffries helped out her own cause with a RBI single just past her counterpart, Sarah Ellis, in the circle to give the homestanding Lady Pirates a one-run lead.
Liberty quickly tied the game in the top of the second inning, starting with Ashley Williams doubling to the gap in right center. The two-base hit was the 48th of the senior's career, pushing her past Shannon Tanski (1997-1999) to become the program's all-time career doubles leader.
Following a groundout by Leah Cossentino, Hampton should have gotten out of the inning when Keely McMillon grounded to third. But the ball got underneath the glove of Jennifer Cuellar, allowing Williams to score and knotting the game at 1-1.
Both teams' bats remained quiet until the top of the sixth inning, when Liberty scored two runs on three hits and took advantage of a Hampton fielding error to open up a 3-1 lead.
Beth Bennett opened the frame by dropping a single into center field. Following a ground out by Williams, which moved pinch runner Elena Lampman to second, the replacement runner scored on Shannon McKain's RBI base hit up the middle to break the tie.
Leah Cossentino gave Liberty a pair of base runners with a single to center field, while another error cost the homestanding Pirates a run. Jeffries got McMillon to ground to third for the second time in the game, but Cuellar once again couldn't handle the hot shot, allowing McKain to score an insurance run.
And the extra run would come in handy, as Hampton trimmed the lead in half in the bottom of the sixth. Ellis issued Weisserbach a leadoff walk, and the Lady Pirates' second baseman advanced to second on a two-out base hit up the middle by Angela Balser.
Following a walk by Tiffany Bredts to load the base, Ellis continued to struggle with her control, unleashing a wild pitch to allow Weisserbach to cross the plate and cut the lead to 3-2.
But game one starter Tiffani Smith was brought in to halt the rally, getting Cuellar swinging to end the sixth inning with the tying run 60 feet away from home plate. The freshman secured her first collegiate save by retiring the side in order in the seventh, fanning all three batters to give her four strikeouts in the game and 14 on the afternoon.
Ellis was the game's victor, upping her record to 5-18 on the season. The junior allowed two runs on five hits, while issuing two free passes and fanning two batters.
Jeffries suffered the loss to fall to 5-3 on the year. The righty allowed three runs, one of which was earned, on seven hits, while walking one and striking out two.
Both teams finished the game with five hits. Williams was 1-for-3 with the historic double, while McKain was 1-for-2 with a RBI single and a run scored for the Lady Flames.
Garcia led the Lady Pirates from the plate, batting 1-for-4 with a run scored, followed by Jeffries, who was 1-for-3 with a RBI.
The Lady Flames will return to the softball diamond tomorrow afternoon, when they welcome Big South leader Winthrop to Lynchburg for a three-game weekend series. First pitch for tomorrow's scheduled doubleheader is slated for 2 p.m., at the Liberty Softball Field.