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Flames Face Hokies in Midweek Match-Up
The Liberty Flames (25-23, 12-6 Big South) travel to Blacksburg, Va., on Wednesday, May 7, for a nonconference contest against the Virginia Tech Hokies (20-27, 4-20 ACC). First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
All-Time Series Against Virginia Tech
Wednesday will be the 52nd meeting between the Flames and the Hokies on the diamond. Virginia Tech holds the all-time edge in the series, 32-19, since 1977. Earlier this season, the Hokies defeated the Flames, 11-1, at Worthington Stadium on April 16. Virginia Tech has won the last four contests between the two teams. Liberty has not won a meeting since a 13-1 victory on March 8, 2006 at Worthington Stadium with the Hokies.
The Last Time Out
Liberty moved into second place in the Big South Conference standings, by taking both ends of a doubleheader to sweep a three-game series at Charleston Southern on Sunday. The Flames defeated the Buccaneers, 13-2, in game one, while winning game two, 8-2.
In game one, first baseman David Giammaresi had three hits and three Flames hit home runs, including a grand slam by Aaron Grijalva, in a 13-2 victory. Giammaresi led all hitters in the contest with his trio of hits and knocked in three runs. Grijalva, the Flames' left fielder, added two hits, capping an eight-run ninth inning with a grand slam. The blast was his first of the season.
In game two, senior left hander Ryan Page went the distance for the second time this season in an 8-2 Liberty win. After allowing two unearned runs in the first inning, Page retired 12-straight batters, striking out seven consecutive hitters from the second through the fourth stazas. He went on to to retire 16 out of 17 batters in the middle frames. Grijalva hit a three-run home run for the Flames in the contest, while Giammaresi and right fielder P.K. Keller had two hits each for Liberty in the victory.
A Look at the Hokies
After a doubleheader sweep of Presbyterian on Sunday, Virginia Tech enters Wednesday's contest with a 20-27 overall record and is 4-20 in the ACC.
Entering the week, the Hokies have hit .297 as a team. First baseman Sean O'Brien leads Virginia Tech in hitting with a .335 batting average. In addition, he is second on the Hokies in RBIs with 33 to Anthony Sosnoskie, who has 37.
On the mound, Justin Wright tops the Hokie staff with a 3.55 ERA. He is 2-0 in 21 appearances. Rhett Ballard leds the Virginia Tech pitchers with 24 appearances and 59.2 innings pitched. He has recorded a 4.53 ERA. As a team, the Hokies have posted a 5.82 ERA.
Liberty on the Road
Liberty has posted a 12-8 road record and a 5-4 neutral field mark this season.
This year, Liberty is scheduled to play 23 contests on the road, plus nine on neutral fields. Jim Toman's team's road schedule includes two tournaments. The first was in Clearwater, Fla., which opened the season, followed by The Coca-Cola Classic in Hattiesburg, Miss., March 14-15.
Last season, Liberty posted a 10-15 road record, plus a 3-1 mark on neutral fields.
Flames by the Month
This past Saturday's contest at Charleston Southern was the first game in the month of May for the Flames. With the three-game sweep of Buccaneers, Liberty has started off the fifth month, 3-0. Liberty will play 11 regular-season contests during the final month of the season and participate in the 2008 Big South Baseball Championship in Danville, Va. Last season, Liberty went 8-7 during the month, including 3-2 in the Big South Championship.
The Flames are 141-110-2 (.551) all-time, including Big South Championship appearances and three NCAA Regional appearances, during May. Liberty has gone 104-82-2 in regular season games during the month. In the Big South Championship, the Flames are 36-22, with championships in 2001, 1998 and 1993. In three NCAA appearances, Liberty is 1-6 all-time.
Liberty recorded a 10-11 mark in the month of April. The Flames went 8-4 in Big South play during the month. Last season, Liberty went 11-6 in the fourth month of the year. Since 1976, the Flames have recorded an all-time mark of 323-276-1 (.539) in April.
Liberty posted a 7-12 record and began Big South play at 1-2 in March. Last season, the Flames posted a 10-9 record in the third month of they year and began Big South play with a 3-3 record. Since 1978, Liberty has posted a record of 325-266-2 (.539) in the month of March.
Liberty played five contests during the month of February in 2008, with the inception of the common starting date for college baseball. For the first time this season, NCAA Division I programs could not begin competition until Feb. 22. The Flames went unbeaten during the month, posting a 5-0 mark to open the 2008 campaign
Last season, Liberty started the 2007 campaign by posting a 7-3 mark in February, while in 2006, Liberty started 7-2. The Flames have been successful during the month with a mark of 69-29 (.704) since 1976. It is the third-straight season, Liberty has had a strong opening month.
The Flames at Night
Wednesday night's contest will be the Flames' ninth night game of the season. April 25's game at Winthrop was the eighth night game of the season for Liberty. In the contest, the Flames had a three-game winning streak under the lights snapped. Liberty stands at 3-5 on the season in night games.
Last year, Liberty went 4-6 in night contests. Since 2004, Liberty has gone 10-19 under artificial lighting.
The Flames are scheduled to play 12 games at night this season, including six at Worthington Stadium and six on the road.
Keller and Grijalva Among LU All-time Leaders
With their time in a Liberty uniform winding down, Flames seniors P.K. Keller and Aaron Grijalva find themselves climbing several Liberty career lists, entering the week.
Keller finds himself second all-time in program history with 772 at bats. The senior outfielder's 237 career hits are sixth in Liberty history, while his 155 RBIs rank him sixth all-time.
Grijalva is currently seventh on the career at bats list with 691. The outfielder/first baseman has scored 159 runs to tied for sixth in the school record book in the category. Also, he ranks fourth all-time in doubles with 49 two-base hits and is seventh in stolen bases with 55 thefts. His 227 career hits to tie him for seventh on the all-time list and with 10 RBIs last week, he has now moved into a tie for eighth on the school's list with 139 RBs.
Grijalva and Page Garner Big South Weekly Honors for April 28-May 4
Liberty left fielder Aaron Grijalva was selected the Big South Conference Choice Hotels Baseball Player of the Week, while fellow Flame Ryan Page was named Big South New Balance Pitcher of the Week for games played April 28-May 4.
Grijalva batted .412 (7-17) with two home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs to lead the Flames to a 3-1 record last week. The senior left fielder went 2-5 with a double and RBI in Liberty's 7-6, 11-inning setback to George Mason to open the week, Wednesday. Grijalva then pushed the Flames to a three-game sweep of Big South foe Charleston Southern on the road, helping Liberty move into second place in the conference standings on the weekend. The Redlands, Calif., native posted nine RBIs, two doubles and two home runs in the series, going 2-4 with two RBIs in the opener, 2-5 with a grand slam in game two and 1-3 with a home run and 3 RBIs in the finale. On the week, Grijalva slugged .941, had a .474 on-base percentage and added one walk and a stolen base.
Page, a native of Cranberry Twp, Pa., went the distance in an 8-2 victory Sunday against Charleston Southern. After yielding two unearned runs in the first inning, the left hander retired 12-straight hitters, including striking out seven-consecutive batters from the second-through-fourth frames. Page went on to retire 16 of 17 hitters through the sixth and finished with nine strikeouts on the day. The senior allowed two runs, both unearned, on six hits in the victory, to run his season record to 3-4. Page's complete game was his second of the season. The senior southpaw also went the distance in a 6-1 victory over VMI on April 20.
How About Hollinger
Junior catcher Errol Hollinger is in the midst of arguably his best season, as the Flames' backstop. Always known for his outstanding defensive skills, the junior enters the week third in the conference with 49 runs scored and is also tied for eighth in the Big South with 98 total bases.
So far in 2008, Hollinger has hit a career-high .312 and has already surpassed his previous season-high totals with 34 RBIs, seven home runs and 13 doubles.
Behind the plate, the field general has committed five errors and had only two passed balls for a .988 fielding percentage in 48 games, 47 of them starts. He is once again near the top of the Big South Conference in baserunners caught stealing. Hollinger has thrown out 21 would-be base stealers this season.
Flames Among the Big South Leaders
Entering the week, several Flames are among the Big South leaders. First baseman David Gammaresi is fourth in the conference with .344 batting average. The senior also is ninth in slugging percentage (.563) and 10th in on base percentage (.408).
Catcher Errol Hollinger is third in the Big South with 49 runs scored. The junior is also tied for eighth in the conference with 98 total bases. On the defensive side, he has allowed the fewest passed balls by a catcher with two and is second in the Big South with 20 baserunners caught stealing.
Third baseman Cody Brown and outfielder P.K. Keller are also listed among the conference's RBI leaders. Brown is eighth with 39 RBIs, while Keller is 10th with 38.
On the mound, David Stokes and Ryan Page are among the Big South ERA leaders. Stokes is sixth with a 3.10 ERA, while Page is 10th with a 3.39 ERA. Stokes is tied for the conference lead with 78 1/3 innings pitched. The senior right-hander also leads the Big South with 71 strikeouts, four more than teammate Dustin Umberger, who is second with 67 punchouts. The two are also tied for third in the conference with six wins each.
A Look Ahead
This weekend, the Flames will play Longwood in a three-game non-conference series. Saturday, the two sqauds will square off in a doubleheader in Farmville, Va., beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, the Lancers will visit Worthington Stadium for a single contest with the Flames, starting at 1 p.m.