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Flames Fall to Panthers in Final Regular Season Game
The High Point Panthers erased an early five-run deficit on their way to a 13-8 win over the Liberty Flames, Sunday afternoon, at Worthington Stadium in the final game of the Big South three-game series and last regular season game for both teams.
With the setback, the Flames will open the 2006 Big South Baseball Championship on Wednesday in Conway, S.C. as the fifth seed with a 13-11 record in conference play and a 36-19 overall mark. The Panthers claim the fourth seed for the championship with a 14-10 mark in the Big South and 26-30 overall.
The two teams traded runs in the opening inning of the contest. High Point scored on a solo home run by Mark Shorey, the right fielder's 20th of the season, in the top half of the inning. Liberty came back in the bottom inning as Michael Just (Sr., 2B, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) reached on a bunt single, moved to third on a double by Aaron Grijalva (r-So., 1B, Redlands, Calif.), and scored on a ground out by Phillip Laurent (Sr., LF, Cantrall, Ill.).
High Point added an unearned run in the second inning as Randy Schwartz reached on a single and later scored with two outs as the first baseman missed a throw from the third baseman on a ground ball. Liberty matched with a single run in the third inning as Grijalva tripled off the top of the wall in right field and scored as Laurent beat out an infield hit.
The Flames took a 7-2 lead in the fourth inning, erupting for five runs. With two outs and runners on the corners, Chad Miller (Sr., 3B, Wheat Ridge, Colo.) hit a three-run home run over the center field wall to put Liberty up, 5-2. The round tripper was the third baseman's fifth of the season. Just continued the inning as he followed with a single and moved to second as Grijalva walked. Laurent singled to right field plating Just. Grijalva then raced home with the fifth run of the inning as Laurent got caught in a run down on a steal attempt, allowing the first baseman to score.
The Panthers matched in their next at bat with five runs in the fifth. Jeff Cowan started the inning with a double and moved to third on a single by Chris Norwood. A wild pitch allowed Cowan to score. Two more wild pitches allowed Norwood to score also to cut the Flames' advantage to 7-4. With runners on the corners, J. Williams hit a three-run home run over the center field wall to knot the game at 7-7. It was the center fielder's third of the year.
In the sixth, High Point broke the deadlock with three more runs to take the lead for good. Cowan lead off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a walk to Shorey. Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch and and Cowan scored on a RBI single by catcher Billy Aguiar. After Williams singled, Schwartz plated both runners with a double to go up, 10-7.
The Panthers extended their lead with two two-out runs in the top of the seventh. Cowan walked and Norwood single in front of a bases clearing double by Shorey.
Liberty cut into the lead to 12-8 with a single run in the bottom of the inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Phil John (Jr., RF, Linwood, N.J.) lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Patrick Gaillard (Jr., SS, Taylors, S.C.), who had opened the frame with single. However, High Point reliever Zach Scott got the next Flame to fly out to end the threat.
The Flames also loaded the bases in the eight with no one out, but came away empty as Panther reliever Tim Boleska was able to strike out the next batter he faced and then induced an inning ending double play.
High Point added an unearned run in the ninth for the final outcome.
Liberty reliever Phillip Thompson (Sr., RHP, Ringgold, Va.), the third of five pitchers in the contest for the Flames, took the lost, allowing three runs on four hits in the sixth inning. Scott, one of three High Point pitchers on the afternoon, picked up the win to even his mark at 1-1, holding Liberty to one run on four hits over three innings.
Keller for the second straight day went 4-for-5 for the Flames, while Just, Grijalva and Laurent each had two hits apiece. Miller and Laurent also had three RBI. J. Williams was 4-for-6 with three RBI and scored two runs for the Panthers, while Shorey and Schwartz had three hits each. Shorey also added three RBI.
Before the game, Liberty seniors Billy Daniels (RHP, Colonial Heights, Va.), Michael Just, Phillip Laurent, Chad Miller and Phillip Thompson were honored as the five played in their last home at Worthington Stadium.
Both teams now head to the 2006 Big South Baseball Championship scheduled to open Wednesday with three games at Charles Watson Stadium in Conway, S.C. Liberty, the six- team field's fifth seed, will meet Winthrop, the second seed, on Wednesday, while High Point, the fourth seed, will meet host Coastal Carolina, the third seed. Game times have yet to be announced.