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Panthers Down Flames in Regular Season Closer
The setback was the first for the Flames during the month of the May, snapping a 10-game unbeaten streak (9-0-1). Liberty drops to 14-7 in the Big South Conference and 31-24-1 overall. High Point improves to 9-12 in the conference standings and 20-32 overall.
The contest, originally scheduled for 1 p.m., was moved up to a Noon start time, but steady rain in the Lynchburg area caused the start of the final game of the regular season to be pushed back several hours.
After waiting almost four hours for the skies to clear, the Panthers jumped on the scoreboard in the opening frame for a 1-0 advantage, when the game finally got underway. Second baseman Jeff Cowan was hit by a pitch leading off the game and came around to plate the first run of the contest on a double by third baseman Randy Schwartz.
Liberty knotted the game in the second inning with a run. David Giammaresi (Sr., 1B, Coral Springs, Fla.) drew a walk to open the frame. After advancing to second on a wild pitch, the Flames first baseman scored on a single to center field by Tim Rotola (Jr., CF, Wichita, Kan.).
In the top of the third, High Point briefly went back on top. Cowan began the inning with a single and scored ahead of center fielder Pablo Rosario's two-run home run. The round tripper was his third of the year and gave the Panthers a 3-1 edge.
Liberty answered back in the bottom of the inning. Kenneth Negron (Jr., 2B, Kingwood, Texas) led off the frame by slapping a single to center field and moved to second on a ground out. After Negron moved to third on a wild pitch, he came home on another wild pitch. Two batters later, Garrett Young (Sr., DH, Fountain Valley, Calif.) singled sharply to left field, plating Giammaresi, who had earlier walked, and tying the game at 3-3.
After heavy rains once again halted play for one hour and 22 minutes, High Point pushed across two runs in the top of the fourth to take a 5-3 lead. With two outs, catcher Kyle Mahoney doubled to the wall in right-center field. Shortstop Alfie Wheeler followed with a single through the middle to bring home the Panther catcher. Wheeler then stole second base and made it, 5-3 High Point, as Cowan doubled off the wall in left field.
Liberty sliced its deficit to 5-4 in the home half of the inning, striking for a run with two out. Negron singled to left field to keep the frame alive and scored on a double off the center field wall by Errol Hollinger (Jr., C, Upland, Calif.).
The Panthers extended their advantage in the eighth. With one out, Mahoney was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a single by Wheeler. Two batters later, Rosario delivered a bases clearing double for a 7-4 lead.
High Point added an insurance run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Drew Geissinger, who had entered the contest as the designated hitter in the eighth inning, for the final margin of 8-4.
Liberty reliever Brett Curll (So., RHP, Virginia Beach, Va.), the second of four Flames pitchers on the afternoon, takes the loss to fall to 0-1 on the year. High Point hurler Zach Scott, who entered the game after the rain delay in the third inning, picks up the win to move to 2-5 on the season. Bubba O'Donnell, the last of five Panther pitchers in the contest, recorded his eighth save with two innings of scoreless relief.
Negron paced all hitters in the game with three hits, scoring two runs. Hollinger and Young each collected two hits for the Flames. Rosario drove in four runs with two hits for the Panthers.
Before the game began, the seven senior members of the Liberty roster were recognized as they played in their last home contest in a Flames uniform. Giammaresi, Keller and Young were honored along with Aaron Grijalva (Sr., LF, Redlands, Calif.), Ryan Page (Sr., LHP, Cranberry Twp., Pa.), Aaron Phillips (Sr., SS, Claremore, Okla.) and David Stokes (Sr., RHP, Locust Grove, Okla.).
Liberty opens play in the 2008 Big South Championship on Wednesday at Dan Daniel Park in Danville, Va., against a yet-to-be-determined opponent. The host Flames are the six-team, double elimination tournament's No. 2 seed.