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Liberty Edged in Slugfest by Richmond
Despite a grand slam home run and five RBI from Michael Just, the Richmond Spiders edged the Liberty Flames, 12-11, in a non-conference game Wednesday afternoon at Pitt Field.
With the setback, the Flames drop to 29-10 on the season, while the Spiders move 14-23. It was the longest game of the season for Liberty as the contest lasted 3:46, eclipsing last weekend's 3:27 game in a 13-6 first game win over Charleston Southern.
Liberty jumped to the lead with a run in the first inning. With two outs, Aaron Grijalva (r-So., 1B, Redlands, Calif.) reached on an infield single. After stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch, the first baseman scored on a double by Phillip Laurent (Sr., LF, Cantrall, Ill.).
The double was the 56th two-base hit of Laurent's career and tied him with former Flames' outfielder Steve Baker for the Liberty all-time career mark in doubles. Baker, an outfielder, hit 56 doubles from 1999-2002.
In the top of the second inning, the Flames extended their lead to 3-0. Abe Yeakel (Jr., C, Kutztown, Pa.) and P.K. Keller (So., CF, St. Petersburg, Fla.) opened the frame with back-to-back singles. After both runners advanced on a ground out, Yeakel came home on a sacrifice fly by Tommy Bussey (Fr., SS, Boynton Beach, Fla.). Keller later scored the second run of the inning on a single up the middle by Michael Just (Sr., 2B, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.).
Richmond took the lead in the bottom of the inning with seven runs on eight hits as the Spiders sent 10 batters to the plate in the frame. Richmond opened the inning with four-consecutive hits. After singling to begin the Spider's half of the second, designated hitter Joe Mahoney scored on a RBI single by Andrew Justice. Vince Riggi then reached on an infield single and catcher Matt McKenna followed with a RBI single. A balk would plate Riggi to tie the score at 3-3. Two batters later, center fielder Ben Zeskind hit a two-run home run over the right field wall, his fifth of the season, to put the Spiders ahead, 5-3. Richmond then put together three-straight singles, scoring two more runs to go ahead 7-3 on a two-run single by third baseman Cameron Brown.
Liberty closed the gap with a single run in the third and took the lead with four runs in the fourth. The Flames plated an unearned run in the third as Laurent reached on an error and scored two batters later on a ground out by Yeakel. In the fourth, Liberty batted around in the frame. After the first three batters reached to load the bases, Just hit his second grand slam and fourth home run of the season by sending a blast over the left field wall for an 8-7 advantage.
The Spiders went back in front on three unearned runs in the bottom of the inning. With runners on second and third and one out, Mahoney stuck out, however the third strike was not held and a throwing error by the Liberty catcher allowed Richmond to tie the game at 8-8. The next batter, Brown delivered a run on ground out to first, while Justice followed with an infield single to plate another run for a 10-8 Spider advantage.
Richmond stretched their lead to 12-8 with two runs in the fifth. McKenna walked to leadoff the inning and scored on a RBI single by Anthony Sandstrom. He later scored on a RBI single by Ryan Mezroth, who came on the second inning at first base.
The Flames cut the Spider lead to one with three runs in the seventh. Yeakel scored on a sacrifice fly by Phil John (Jr., RF, Linwood, N.J.) for the first Liberty run of the inning. Bussey followed with a RBI single. Chad Miller (Sr., 3B, Wheat Ridge, Colo.) then doubled to the right field gap to the deliver the shortstop and make it, 12-11.
On a staff day for both teams, Tyler Light (Fr., RHP, San Bernardino, Calif.), the second of five Liberty pitchers on the afternoon took the loss to drop to 1-1 on the year. Lane Holby, the second of four pitchers for Richmond, picked up the win to move to 1-1, while Wyatt Stewart earned his first save of the season shutting down the Flames over the last two innings.
Liberty returns home and steps back into Big South Conference play with a weekend series against Coastal Carolina at Worthington Stadium. Game time for the opening game of the series Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m.