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Liberty Faces Longwood in Weekend Series
The Liberty Flames (26-23, 12-6 Big South) look to extend their current winning streak to a season-high five games, when they travel to Farmville, Va., on Saturday, May 10 for a non-conference doubleheader with the Longwood Lancers (22-23). First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. The two squads will then meet at Worthington Stadium in Lynchburg, Va., the following afternoon. Sunday's single contest is scheduled for 1 p.m.
All-Time Series Against Longwood
Saturday will be the 17th meeting between the Flames and the Lancers on the diamond. Liberty holds a 14-2 advantage in the all-time series since 1978. Liberty and Longwood did not meet in 2007. In 2006, the Flames took three meetings from the Lancers. Liberty defeated Longwood, 4-3, in back-to-back games on Feb. 16 and 21. Later in the year, the Flames shut out the Lancers, 8-0, at Worthington Stadium on April 18.
The Last Time Out
The Liberty Flames raced out to a 7-0 advantage, highlighted by a grand slam by Aaron Phillips and then held on for a 7-6 victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies, Wednesday night at English Field. The win was the fourth-straight victory for the Flames.
In the second inning with the bases loaded and two outs, Phillips ripped a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall for his first grand slam in a Liberty uniform and his sixth home run of the season, giving the Flames a 4-0 lead.
Liberty starter Clarence Nicely held the Hokies off the scoreboard through five frames and moved his record to 4-1, striking out a career-high 10 batters in 5 1/3 innings.
Virginia Tech closed the gap to 7-6 after seven innings, but Flames reliever Steven Evans came on and pitched two scoreless frames to pick up his second save of the year.
A Look at the Lancers
In their third year of reclassifying from Division II to Division I, Longwood enters the weekend with a 22-23 record. The Lancers come into Saturday's contest off a 9-7 win over Big South opponent High Point, 9-7, on Wednesday.
Third baseman Phil Cerreto paces the Longwood offensive with a .403 batting average. Nick von Gersdorff leads the Lancers with 37 RBIs. As a team, Longwood is hitting .282 and averaging 5.3 runs per game.
On the mound, the Lancers have a 4.84 ERA under first-year pitching coach and Liberty alum, Billy Daniels. Reliever Lance Harting leds the Longwood mound staff with a 3.34 ERA and is tied for the team lead in appearances with fellow reliever Rob Moody with 18.
Flames at Worthington Stadium
For the past 28 years, the Flames have called Worthington Stadium their home. The Flames have compiled an impressive 483-223-4 record at the facility for a winning percentage of .683 since the stadium's inception in 1979.
This year, the Flames are slated to play 24 home games at the stadium. Liberty has posted a 8-11 record at Worthington, so far this season. The slate of home games includes the first night contests in the history of the stadium. March 28 was the first night contest ever at the stadium, and nine contests currently are scheduled to be played under the lights.
Last season, Liberty went 23-9 at Worthington. The 23 wins tie for the third most by the Flames in a season at the facility.
Liberty on the Road
Liberty has posted a 13-8 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
Liberty has won each of its four games, thus far, in May for a 4-0 mark in the month. 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 142-110-2 (.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 at Virginia Tech was the Flames' ninth night game of the season. With the victory, Liberty stands at 4-5 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.
Entering Saturday's first game, the Liberty pitching staff is two strikeouts away from setting the school record for punchouts in a season. This season, the Flames have fanned 404 batters, one shy of the program record of 405 set by the 1997 Liberty staff. The Flames' strikeout total leads the Big South Conference, and their 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings ranked 40th in the last national statistical summary on May 4.
Senior David Stokes leads the conference in strikeouts with 71, while junior Dustin Umberger is second in the Big South rankings with 67. Umberger ranks 67th in the country with 9.37 strikeouts per nine innings.
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 weekend.
Keller finds himself second all-time in program history with 776 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 696. The outfielder/first baseman has scored 159 runs to tie 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 RBIs.
Three Flames Earn District 3 Academic Honors
Giammaresi, Clarence Nicely and Errol Hollinger have been named to the 2008 ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District III teams for their excellence in the classroom and on the baseball diamond.
Giammaresi, a senior who is finishing his Liberty career with his best season, received second team recognition. The Coral Springs, Fla,, native entered the week fourth in the Big South Conference in hitting with a .344 batting average and in doubles with 16. The first baseman also is ninth in the conference in slugging percentage (.563) and 10th in on-base percentage (.408). He has 34 RBIs, 33 runs scored and five home runs. In 2007, he was named to the All-Big South second team as a third baseman.
Academically, Giammaresi has excelled in the classroom. Currently pursuing a MBA, he graduated in May 2007 with a degree in sport management with a 3.67 GPA. Last season, he was named to the 2007 Big South All-Academic baseball team. As an undergrad, Giammaresi earned Dean's List mention six times and was a four-time member of Big South Presidential Honor Roll. In 2007, he was named Liberty University Sport Management Student of the Year.
Nicely, a junior in his first season in a Liberty uniform after transferring from Auburn in 2006, was named a third team member. The right-hander from Milton, W.Va., has posted a 4-1 mark with a 6.39 ERA. He has struck out 48 batters and walked 32 on the season. Wednesday night, the junior struck out a career-high 10 hitters over 5 1/3 innings in a 7-6 victory at Virginia Tech.
Academically, Nicely has a 4.0 GPA in criminal justice and has been named to the Dean's List all three semesters at Liberty. In addition, he is a member of the Big South Presidential Honor Roll and earned Southeastern Conference Academic Honor mention twice.
Hollinger, also a junior, began the week third in the Big South with 50 runs scored. The catcher, who earned third team academic honors, is also tied for eighth in the conference with 99 total bases. On the defensive side, he has allowed the fewest passed balls among Big South catchers with only two this season and is second in the Big South with 20 baserunners caught stealing. For the year, Hollinger is hitting .310 with 34 RBIs and is tied for the team lead in home runs with seven. Academically, the junior has posted a 3.68 GPA in sport management. He has earned Dean's List honors each of his seven academic semesters and has also been named to the Big South Presidential Honor Roll twice.
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 on April 30. 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 on May 4 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 weekend third in the conference with 50 runs scored and is also tied for eighth in the Big South with 99 total bases.
So far in 2008, Hollinger has hit a career-high .310 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 49 games, 48 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.
Entering play this week, Liberty is fifth in the nation in doubles and leads the Big South with 121 two-base hits, 12 more than Coastal Carolina. A trio of Flames are among the conference leaders in the category. Outfielder P. K. Keller paces the conference with 18 doubles. Teammate David Giammaresi is tied for fourth with 16 two-base hits. Cody Brown is the third Liberty player in the top ten in doubles with 14, tying him for eighth.
Meanwhile, the Flames have turned the most double plays in the conference with 49 tein killings. Shortstop Aaron Phillips is tied for the Big South lead in being involved in a double play, having turned 40 of them this season.
Flames Among the Big South Leaders
Entering the week, several Flames rank among the Big South leaders. First baseman David Giammaresi 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.
Liberty Climbs in Standings with Big South Twinbill Sweep
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, last 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 stanzas. 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.
Stokes, Home Runs Turn Back Bucs
Liberty starter David Stokes threw his second complete game of the year, and three different Flames hit home runs in an 8-3 victory over Charleston Southern, last Saturday at Buccaneer Field.
Stokes did not allow a runner to reach base through the first five innings of the contest on his way to the complete game victory. The senior right-hander allowed three runs, one of which was unearned, on four hits, to improve to 6-4 on the season. He struck out eight batters and issued just one walk. Earlier in the season, the senior right-hander pitched the first of four complete games this season by a Liberty pitcher in a 5-4 win at Radford on April 11.
The right-hander received offensive help on several fronts. First baseman David Giammaresi, outfielder Joseph Feeley and third baseman Cody Brown each hit a home run in the game. Feeley's blast was the first home run of his collegiate career. Catcher Errol Hollinger led all hitters with three hits in the contest and scored a run. Right-fielder P.K. Keller added two hits and scored two runs.
A Look Ahead
The Flames return home to begin a four-game home stand to finish the 2008 regular season. Liberty will host the VCU Rams in a midweek tilt on Tuesday at Worthington Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Liberty will then complete its regular season and Big South schedule with a three-game series at Worthington with the High Point Panthers. The three-game set will be a pivotal series in determining seeding for the Big South Baseball Championship the following week in Danville, Va. The series opener will get underway at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by a 4 p.m. start for Saturday's game. The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m.