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Panthers Take Series Opener from Flames
High Point hit three home runs to back the four-hit pitching of sophomore Eammon Portice as the Panthers defeated the Liberty Flames, 11-6, Friday afternoon, at Worthington Stadium in the first game of the Big South series between the two teams.
High Point moves it record to 13-9 in the Big South and 25-29 overall, while Liberty falls to 12-10 in the conference and 35-18 overall.
The Flames opened the scoring with two unearned runs in the bottom of the third inning. Errol Hollinger (Fr., C, Upland, Calif.) reached on a fielding error by the shortstop and Chad Miller (Sr., 3B, Wheat Ridge, Colo.) walked to open the inning. After retiring the next two Flames, Phillip Laurent (Sr., LF, Cantrall, Ill.) was intentionally walked to load the bases. Patrick Gaillard (Jr., Taylors, S.C.) then singled to right field, the first hit of the game for Liberty, to score Hollinger and Miller for a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers erased the Flames' advantage in the top of the fourth with five consecutive hits. With one out, J. Williams singled to center field and scored in front of a home run by first baseman Randy Schwartz. It was Schwartz's fifth of the season. Matt Ganter and Dustin Holtzman followed with singles. Shortstop Alfie Wheeler then singled to left field to plate Ganter for a 3-2 High Point lead.
In the sixth, the Panthers added to their lead. Schwartz and Ganter each singled with one out. Holtzman then connected for a three-run home run to left, his third of the year, for a 6-3 advantage.
High Point extended its advantage to 9-3 with three more runs in the seventh. Right fielder Matt Shorey hit a solo home run, his 19th of the season, with one out for a 7-3 lead. Later in the frame, Williams reached on a two-out walk and Schwartz continued the inning with a single. After Ryan LaBoy entered as pinch runner for Schwartz, both runners advanced one base on a throwing error on a failed pick off attempt of Williams at second base. Ganter then walked to load the bases and the two runners scored on a throwing error on another pick off attempt, this time at third of Williams.
Liberty broke through against Portice with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Hollinger singled and scored on a single by Michael Just (Sr., 2B, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) which the Panther right fielder misplayed, allowing the Flames' catcher to score.
The teams each tallied additional runs in the eighth to make it, 11-4. The Panthers scored in the top half of the frame on a two-run single by Williams. The Flames would get their first earned run of the contest as pinch hitter Derek Bennion (r-Jr., DH, Snohomish, Wash.) hit a solo home run, his third of the season in the bottom half of the inning.
Liberty added two runs in the ninth off a reliever Chris Marks. Aaron Grijalva (r-So., 1B, Redlands, Calif.) and Laurent each providing RBI singles.
Portice allowed four runs, one earned, on six hits over eight innings, while striking out 10 and walking four to up his record to 6-5 on the season. Flames' starter Dustin Umberger (Fr., RHP, Hummelstown, Pa.) took the loss to fall to 3-2, allowing five runs on 10 hits, while striking out six and walking two in 5 1/3 innings.
Schwartz was 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored, while four other Panthers had two hits each. Gaillard, Hollinger and Just each had two hits for the Flames.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow afternoon in the middle game of the final Big South series of the regular season for both teams. First pitch at Worthington Stadium is set for 2 p.m.