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Flames Host Rams in Final Midweek Contest
The Liberty Flames (28-23-1, 12-6 Big South) host the VCU Rams (15-28, 8-16 CAA) in the final midweek non-conference tilt of the season on Tuesday, May 13 at 7 p.m.
All-Time Series Against VCU
Tuesday will be the 48th meeting between Liberty and VCU on the baseball diamond. VCU holds a 28-19 advantage in all-time series, which started in 1977. Earlier this season, the Rams scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 5-4 victory over the Flames on March 4.
The Last Time Out
Heavy thunderstorms in the Lynchburg area Sunday afternoon halted and later washed out the contest between Liberty and Longwood at Worthington Stadium, shortening the game to six innings and ending it in a 3-3 tie. Liberty third baseman Cody Brown was 2-for-3 with a RBI double in the contest. Both teams took advantage of miscues by the other to plate two unearned runs each in the game. Liberty left-hander Ryan Page allowed three runs, only one earned, on seven hits over his six innings of work. He struck out five batters and did not yield a walk.
A Look at the Rams
VCU comes to Lynchburg for its final midweek contest of the regular season. The Rams took two games of a three-game CAA series from Hofstra this past weekend, improving their record to 15-28 overall and 8-16 in their conference.
VCU enters the week with a .286 team batting average. First baseman Jared Bolden leds the Rams with a .360 batting average and 44 RBIs. He has also hit 12 of VCU's 30 home runs this season.
On the mound, the Rams have posted a 6.21 team ERA this season. Reliever Aaron Morgan leads VCU with a 1.40 ERA. Robbie Andrews has made the most appearances for the Rams this season with 17.
Flames at Worthington Stadium
For the past 28 years, the Flames have called Worthington Stadium their home. The Flames have compiled an impressive 483-223-5 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 8-11-1 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 completed its 2008 road schedule, posting a 15-8 road record and a 5-4 neutral field mark this season. The Flames' 15 road victories are the most by a Liberty club in program history. Liberty's .652 road winning percentage is its best road mark since 1980, when the Flames went 9-2 on the road for an .818 percentage.
This year, Jim Toman's team's road schedule included 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 is unbeaten in May with a 6-0-1 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 144-110-3 (.556) all-time, including Big South Championship appearances and three NCAA Regional appearances, during May. Liberty has gone 107-82-3 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
Tuesday night's contest against VCU will be the Flames' 10th night game of the season. 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 11 games at night this season, including six at Worthington Stadium and five on the road.
This past Saturday at Longwood the 2008 Liberty pitching staff set a new standard for strikeouts in a season. Entering Tuesday's contest, the Flames have fanned 424 batters, which eclipsed the previous school mark of 405 by the 1997 Liberty mound staff. The Flames' strikeout total leads the Big South Conference, and their 8.15 strikeouts per nine innings ranked 40th in the last national statistical summary on May 4.
Senior David Stokes leads the conference in strikeouts with 77, while junior Dustin Umberger is second in the Big South rankings with 73 punchouts. 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 week.
Keller finds himself second all-time in program history with 785 at bats. The senior outfielder's 241 career hits are fifth in Liberty history, while his 158 RBIs tie him for fifth all-time.
Grijalva is currently seventh on the career at bats list with 704. The outfielder/first baseman has scored 161 runs for fifth 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 229 career hits place him sixth on the all-time list, and is currently tied for seventh on the school's list with 141 RBIs.
Flames Among the Big South Leaders
Entering the week, several Flames rank among the Big South leaders. First baseman David Giammaresi is seventh in the conference with a .351 batting average. The senior also is sixth in slugging percentage (.575).
Catcher Errol Hollinger is third in the Big South with 53 runs scored. The junior is also tied for sixth in the conference with 107 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 21 baserunners caught stealing.
Third baseman Cody Brown is tied for seventh in the conference with 43 RBIs.
On the mound, David Stokes and Ryan Page are among the Big South ERA leaders. Stokes is third with a 2.95 ERA, while Page is seventh with a 3.23 ERA. Stokes is second in the conference with 85 1/3 innings pitched. The senior right-hander also leads the Big South with 77 strikeouts, four more than teammate Dustin Umberger, who is second with 73. The duo is also tied for the league lead with seven wins each.
Thunder Storms Force Tie
Severe thunder showers in the Lynchburg area, forced Liberty's contest against Longwood on Sunday to be stopped after six innings and ending it in a 3-3 tie. The tie was the first in a contest involving the Flames since May 13, 2002, when the Flames tied No. 4 Wake Forest, 11-11 in seven innings. Liberty has had eight games end in a tie in the 34-year history of the program.
Flames Do "Nicely" at Virginia Tech
Liberty starter Clarence Nicely held the Hokies off the scoreboard through five
frames and striking out a career-high 10 batters in a 7-6 victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies, last Wednesday night at English Field. The win was the fourth-straight victory for the Flames.
Nicely fanned his career-high in strikeouts over 5 1/3 frames to run his record to 4-1 on the year.
Liberty raced to an early lead in the second inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, shortstop Aaron 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.
After taking a 7-0 through 5 1/3 innings, Virginia Tech closed the gap over the middle to make it, 7-6, after seven innings. However, Liberty reliever Steven Evans came on and pitched two scoreless frames to pick up his second save of the year.
Liberty starter David Stokes held Longwood in check through seven innings and catcher Errol Hollinger collected three hits, as the Flames completed a sweep of the Lancers with 12-4 win in game two of a doubleheader, Saturday at Lancer Stadium. The victory was Liberty's season-high sixth-straight win of the season.
Liberty starter Stokes allowed one run over seven innings of work to run his record to 7-4 on the season. The senior struck out six and did not walk a batter.
Hollinger led all hitters in the contest with three hits. P.K. Keller, David Giammaresi and Joseph Feeley each had two hits for the Flames in the win.
In the first game, Liberty right-hander Dustin Umberger went the distance for the first time this season, as the Flames won their fifth-straight game, 5-3.
During the contest, the Liberty pitching staff set a new program standard for strikeouts in the season. Liberty's Umberger fanned six Lancer batters to push the Flames' season total to 410, eclipsing the previous Liberty mark of 405 strikeouts, set by the 1997 Flames.
Umberger allowed three runs on four hits, while pitching his first complete game of the season and the fifth by a Liberty pitcher this year. The junior had most recently gone the distance in the Flames' 4-3 victory over VMI on May 23, 2007 in the Big South Baseball Championship. With the win, Umberger ran his record to 7-3 on the year.
A Look Ahead
Liberty will complete its regular season and Big South schedule with a three-game
series at Worthington Stadium 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.