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Laurent Paces Flames as Liberty Wins Ninth-Straight
Phillip Laurent went 5-for-5 with three RBI and the Liberty Flames, trailing 9-4 after sixth inning, scored eight runs, including six in the eighth inning, to defeat the James Madison Dukes, 12-11, Tuesday afternoon at Worthington Stadium for their ninth-straight win.
Liberty is now 26-8 on the season, while James Madison falls to 22-13. It is the second time this season; the Flames have won nine-straight contests. The streak ties the school record for Division I consecutive wins as the 1985 and 1995 teams also had nine-game winning streaks. Liberty also entered the day with the nation's fourth longest current winning streak.
The teams each scored runs in the game's opening inning. The Dukes plated a run on a lead off home run by second baseman Michael Cowgill, while the Flames came back to knot the score at 1-1 on a RBI single by Laurent (Sr., LF, Cantrall, Ill.).
In the top of the second, James Madison went on top with two runs on Cowgill two-out RBI double. The Flames came back and matched in the bottom of the inning as Phil John (Jr., RF, Linwood, N.J.) had a RBI single and Tim Nanry (Jr., DH, Rochester, N.Y.) grounded into a fielder's choice allowing a run to score.
The Dukes took an 8-3 lead in the third with five runs in the inning. First baseman Nate Schill led off the frame with a solo home run. With two outs, Brett Garner singled and Matt Bristow would be hit by a pitch. Shortstop Rob Altieri then doubled down the left field line to score third baseman Garner. Cowgill followed with his second home run of the day, a three-run shot to over the left field wall.
James Madison added another in the fourth inning on Schill's second home run of the afternoon, another solo round tripper, to put the Dukes up, 9-3.
Liberty began its come back in the sixth with a single run. Laurent opened the frame with a double and scored on a double by Aaron Grijalva (r-So., 1B, Redlands, Calif.).
In the seventh, the Flames cut the lead to 9-6. With two outs, Chad Miller (Sr., 3B, Wheat Ridge, Colo.) walked and scored on a triple to the right field corner by Michael Just (Sr., 2B, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.). Laurent then chased Just home with a single.
James Madison loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth, but was only able to add one run to extend its lead to 10-6. Ryan Page (So., LHP, Cranbury Twp. Pa.) entered the game with the base full and shut down the Dukes as a fielder's choice produced the inning's only run.
In the bottom of the inning, Liberty batted around, scoring six runs to take a 12-10 lead. After loading the bases with one out, Patrick Gaillard (Jr., SS, Taylors, S.C.) doubled down the left field line to plate two Flames. David Giammaresi (So., 3B, Coral Springs, Fla.), who came into the game at third base in the top of the eighth, followed with a sacrifice fly to score another run and cut the advantage to 10-9. Two batters later, Laurent delivered again with a single to left to score Gaillard to tie the game. Just, who had been hit by a pitch, then scored on a wild pitch as Liberty took its first lead of the afternoon. Laurent then scored on a RBI single by Grijalva.
In the ninth, back-to-back doubles to start the inning by Dan Santobianco and Garner cut the Liberty advantage to 12-11. Tim John (Jr., RHP, Linwood, N.J.) then relieved and after a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third, retired the next two batters to close out the victory.
The Flames used six pitchers on the afternoon as Page, the fifth, upped his record to 6-1 on the season, allowing one run on two hits in one inning of relief. Tim John came on the ninth and retired all three batters he faced to earn his second save of the season. Geoff Degener, one of six pitchers on the day for the Dukes, took the loss to fall to 0-2 on the year.
Laurent had his second perfect day at the plate this season as the Flames' left fielder was 4-fo-4 earlier this season at George Washington. Grijalva was the other Flame with two hits on the day. Cowgill went 4-for-5 with six RBI, two home runs and two doubles on the day on the day for James Madison. Schill had three hits including the two home runs, while teammates Garner with three hits and Altieri with four hits also had multiple hit games for the Dukes.
The Flames step back into Big South Conference play with a road series this weekend at Charleston Southern. The three-game series begins Friday at 3 p.m. with a single game, followed by a Saturday doubleheader starting at 11 a.m.