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Flames Rally For 11-Inning Win Over Bulldogs
Liberty, sitting atop the Big South standings, moves to 16-4 in conference play and 29-13 overall. The Flames' 16 league victories are the most ever by a Liberty baseball team since joining the Big South in 1992. The victory total surpasses the 15 Big South wins by the 1995 Flames. With the win, Liberty takes the three-game series, two games to one. Gardner-Webb falls to 10-8 in its first year in the Big South Conference and 21-18 overall.
After Liberty erased a 9-3 Gardner-Webb lead to knot the contest at 9-9, Wimmer (Fr., Greenwood, S.C.) led off the 11th, blasting the first pitch of the inning over the left field wall. The home run, the first baseman's sixth of the season, gave Liberty a 10-9 advantage. Reliever Andrew Wilson (Sr., RHP, Cary, N.C.) then closed out the Bulldogs in bottom of the inning, stranding the tying run on second base for the victory.
Both teams opened the contest by plating runs in the opening inning. In the top of the first, Liberty third baseman Tyler Bream (Fr., Zelienople, Pa.) beat out a two-out single to score shortstop Matt Williams (Fr., Franklin, Tenn.) for the first Flames run. Two batters later, Bulldog third baseman Justin Loyd misplayed a ground ball by Jeff Jefferson (So., Danville, Va.), allowing left fielder Doug Bream (So., Elizabethtown, Pa.) to cross the plate for a 2-0 advantage.
In the home half of the frame, Liberty's lead was short-lived, as Gardner-Webb countered with five runs. After the first two Bulldog hitters reached on a walk and a single, Loyd singled home the first Gardner-Webb run of the frame. First baseman Kurt Fulginiti followed with a RBI single, tying the game at 2-2. The next hitter, catcher Ty Boyles, connected for his 10th home run of the season, lining the three-run round-tripper over the left field wall to put the Bulldogs on top, 5-2.
The Flames cut into their deficit in the second inning, pushing a single run across. With one out, Williams, center fielder Curran Redal (Jr., Moses Lake, Wash.) and Doug Bream all singled, loading the bases. Hollinger (Sr., Upland, Calif.) then brought Williams home with a RBI fielder's choice grounder, slicing their hosts' edge to 5-3.
Gardner-Webb extended its lead in the third inning. With one aboard, Boyles hit his second home run of the game and 11th of the season, making it, 7-3 Bulldogs.
In the sixth, Gardner-Webb added two more runs, upping its advantage to 9-3. Right fielder Jon Ahearn led off the inning by hitting his third home run of the season for an 8-3 lead. Shortstop Tyler Johnson followed with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by center fielder Brooke Miller. Left fielder Daniel Cooke brought Johnson home with a single for the inning's second run.
Liberty plated two runs in the seventh to cut its deficit to 9-5. Doug Bream opened the stanza with a single through the right side of the infield. After the next two Flame hitters were retired, right fielder Tim Rotola (Sr., Wichita, Kan.) ripped a single past the second baseman into right field. Pinch hitter Justin Richardson (Fr., OF, Lehigh Acres, Fla.) followed with a bases-clearing double.
The Flames knotted the contest in the eighth. The first three hitters in the inning, second baseman P.J. Jimenez (Jr., Yucaipa, Calif.), Williams and Redal, each singled to begin the frame. Two batters later, Hollinger drilled a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall, tying the contest at 9-9. The grand slam was the catcher's eighth round tripper of the year.
In the top half of the 10th inning, Liberty moved the go-ahead runner into scoring position with one out, and later loaded the bases with two outs, but could not push the tie-breaking run across.
In the bottom of the inning, Gardner-Webb worked a runner into scoring position at second base with one out. However, Flames reliever Wilson stranded the runner to send the contest to the 11th, setting the stage for Wimmer's blast.
Wilson, the third pitcher of the contest for Liberty, picks up the victory to run his record to 5-2 on the season. The right-hander threw four innings of scoreless relief, allowing two hits, while striking out five and walking one.
The Bulldogs' Jake Watts takes the loss to drop to 1-2 on the year. The fifth pitcher in the game for Garnder-Webb, he gave up one run on two hits in 1 1/3 frames.
The Flames' Redal had four hits to lead all players in the contest. Doug Bream added three hits. Hollinger had five RBIs for Liberty.
Three Bulldog player had two hits each. Boyles drove in five runs for Gardner-Webb.
Liberty travels to Charlottesville, Va., Tuesday, to square off with the No. 16 Virginia Cavaliers in a non-conference game. First pitch at Davenport Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.