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Four-Run Eighth Propels Flames Past Spiders
Trailing by a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Liberty Flames batted around, scoring four runs, for a come from behind, 8-5, win over the Richmond Spiders, Tuesday afternoon, at Worthington Stadium.
With a win in their final non-conference contest of the regular season, the Flames move to 35-17 on the season, while Richmond drops to 21-31 overall. Liberty also finishes the season with a 15-5 mark against Virginia schools. In addition, the victory moves the Flames one win shy of tying the school mark for most victories at the Division I level of 36 set last season and in 2000.
Richmond scored a run in the top of the third inning for a 1-0 advantage. Right fielder Matt McKenna opened the frame with a single and later scored on a two-out single by center fielder Ben Zeskind.
In the bottom of the inning, Liberty used a two-out uprising to take the lead. Michael Just (Sr., 2B, Woodcliff Lakes, N.J.) single to left field and scored on an Aaron Grijalva (r-So., 1B, Redlands, Calif.) double off the right field wall. Phillip Laurent (Sr., LF, Cantrall, Ill.) followed with a two-run home run over the right field wall to put the Flames up, 3-1. It was the left fielder's 10th of the season and his third in the last four games.
Liberty added a two-out run in the sixth for a 4-1 advantage. With two out, P.K. Keller (So., CF, St. Petersburg, Fla.) singled to right, advanced to second on a walk to Abe Yeakel (Jr., DH, Kutztown, Pa.). Chad Miller (Sr., 3B, Wheat Ridge, Colo.) then delivered Keller from second with an infield single down the third base line.
The Spiders cut into the Flames lead with two runs in the seventh without a hit. Catcher Hank Coogan was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Vince Riggi then walked and both runners advanced on the second wild pitch of the inning. Coogan would score on a passed ball and Riggi later came home on a wild pitch to close the gap to 4-3.
In the top of the eighth, Richmond plated two more for a 5-4 lead. Zeskind led off the frame with a home run to right center field, his ninth of the season, to tie the game at 4-4. The designated hitter Alex Wotring followed with a walk and advanced to second on a single by Joe Mahoney. A sacrifice bunt by Cameron Brown moved the runners up a base and after an intentional walk loaded the bases, Riggi singled to score Wotring for a 5-4 advantage.
In the bottom of the inning, the Flames sent 10 batters to the plate, erasing the one-run deficit and taking an 8-5 lead. Phil John (Jr., RF, Linwood, N.J.) was hit by a pitch to open the Liberty half of the eighth. Patrick Gaillard (Jr., SS, Taylors, S.C.) followed with a single and both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch. The next batter Keller tied the game at 5-5 with a sacrifice fly to center field. Pinch hitter Derek Bennion (r-Jr., OF, Snohomish, Wash.) then laid down a safety bunt, scoring Gaillard and putting the Flames on top, 6-5. Errol Hollinger (Fr., C, Upland, Calif.) later doubled and scored as Miller ripped a single to right. Once on base, Miller moved to second on a throwing error by the first baseman in a failed pick off attempt and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Just singled to chase the Liberty third baseman home with the final run of the game in an 8-5 victory as the Spiders went in order in the ninth.
Tim John (Jr., RHP, Linwood, N.J.) runs his record to 5-3 for Liberty as he allowed two runs on three hits, while striking out five and walking two over three innings in relief of starter Dane Beakler (Fr., RHP, York, Pa.). Beakler allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits and a walk in six innings. Lane Holby, the second of four Richmond pitchers on the day, took the loss to drop to 1-2 as he allowed three runs on three hits in two innings.
The first three batters in the Flames' batting order had a big day by going a combined 9-for-14 with three runs scored and four RBIs. Liberty top three in the batting order, Miller, Just and Grijalva, each had three hits a piece in the contest. Mahoney had three hits for the Spiders.
Liberty will conclude its regular season this weekend by hosting the High Point Panthers in a three-game Big South Conference series beginning Friday. The series will play a key role in determining the seeding for the upcoming Big South Baseball Championship. First pitch Friday at Worthington Stadium is set for 3 p.m.