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Liberty Defeats High Point, 5-4
With the win, Liberty clinches the second seed for the upcoming Big South Championship, beginning Wednesday, with a 14-6 conference mark. The Flames remain unbeaten in May, and their 9-0-1 mark in 2008's fifth month improves their overall record to 31-23-1. High Point drops to 8-12 in the Big South and 19-32 overall.
Evans (Fr., LHP, Amherst, Va.) entered the 5-4 game in the seventh inning with runners on first and second and one out. After an outstanding diving catch by P.K. Keller (Sr., RF, Clearwater, Fla.) on a looping liner by the first batter the left-hander faced, he then struck out the next hitter with runners on the corners to end the threat. Evans did not allow a base runner over 2 2/3 innings, retiring all eight batters he faced. He struck out three in earning his third save of the year.
Both teams threatened in the first inning without scoring. High Point second baseman Jeff Cowan was thrown out by Aaron Grijalva (Sr., LF, Redland, Calif.) at the plate on a single to left field in the Panthers' first at bat. In the bottom of the frame, Liberty loaded the bases with one out, only to have the threat ended on a double play.
The Flames pushed across the first run of the contest in the second inning. Grijalva ripped a double past the third base bag with one out and scored on a single to center by Tim Rotola (Jr., CF, Wichita, Kan.) for a 1-0 advantage.
Both starters, Liberty's Ryan Page (Sr., LHP, Cranberry Twp., Pa.) and High Point's Corey Swickle, kept hitters off balance into the fifth inning. Page retired nine consecutive Panther batters, while Swickle set down eight straight Flames hitters.
The Panthers took advantage of an error in the fifth to tie the game at 1-1. Designated hitter Kevin Mahoney became the first High Point batter to reach base since the second, with a one-out double. He then came around to score on a fielding error by Liberty shortstop Aaron Phillips (Sr., Claremore, Okla.).
In the bottom of the inning, the Flames answered with a two-out uprising to take back the lead. Kenneth Negron (Jr., 2B, Kingwood, Texas) stopped Swickle's hitless stretch on the mound with a single to the left side with two down in the frame. Errol Hollinger (Jr., C, Upland, Calif.) followed with a base hit. After Keller walked to load the bases, David Giammaresi (Sr., 1B, Coral Springs, Fla.) ripped a single through the right side to cash in a pair of runners for a 3-1 lead.
The Panthers once again knotted the contest in the top of the sixth frame. Cowan and Rosario reached on back-to-back singles to open the inning against Liberty reliever Andrew Wilson (Jr., RHP, Cary, N.C.). Two batters later, catcher Billy Alvino doubled to bring home Cowan. Rosario then tied the game at 3-3, scoring on a ground out by right fielder Chris Norwood.
In the bottom of the inning, Liberty went back on top, this time for good. Garrett Young (Sr., DH, Fountain Valley, Calif.) blasted his fifth home run to lead off the frame and give the Flames a 4-3 advantage. Grijalva followed with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Rotola. Two batters later, Negron lined a single through the left side of infield to plate Grijalva for a 5-3 Liberty edge.
High Point cut the margin to 5-4 in the seventh inning, but could not get any closer. Left fielder Max Fulginitti singled and move to third on two wild pitches. He scored on a single by Cowan. Evans then entered and preserved the Liberty victory.
Page allowed one unearned run over five innings of work, striking out four. Wilson followed and picked up the win to run his record to 2-3 on the year. The reliever yielded three runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings, before giving way to Evans. Jeremy Berg, the second of four High Point pitchers on the day, takes the loss, falling to 3-3. He gave up two runs on five hits over two innings.
Negron had three hits to lead all hitters in the game. Keller, Giammaresi, Grijalva and Rotola had two hits each, as Liberty had 13 hits in the game. Cowan and Alvino collected two hits apiece for High Point.
Liberty hosts High Point in the final contest of the regular season, tomorrow afternoon at Worthington Stadium. Before the game, the seven seniors on the Flames roster will be honored, as they participate in their final home game in a Liberty uniform. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.