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#5 Seed Flames Down #2 Seed Eagles in Game 2 of Big South Baseball Championship
For the second-straight game, the lower-seeded team proved victorious as fifth-seeded Liberty used a seven-run sixth inning to pick up a 9-6 win over second-seeded Winthrop in Game 2 of the 2006 Big South Baseball Championship, Wednesday afternoon, at Watson Stadium.
With the victory, fifth-seeded Liberty improves to 37-19 on the year to set a new school record for Division I victories in a season, while second-seed Winthrop falls to 42-15 on the year. The previous mark of 36 was set in both 2005 and 2000.
The win was also the Flames first victory over a nationally-ranked team since 2002, when Liberty defeated #11-ranked Wake Forest, 6-5 in an early season non-conference contest. Winthrop came into the game ranked 22nd in the nation.
Liberty advances to tomorrow night's Game 6 at 7 p.m. where they will face the winner of tonight's game that features third-seeded Coastal Carolina and fourth-seeded High Point. Winthrop falls into the loser's bracket where they will face top-seeded Birmingham-Southern in an elimination game at 11 a.m.
Winthrop jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning as Matt Repec led off the frame with a single back up the middle. After advancing to second on a successful sacrifice by Tommy Lentz, Repec crossed the plate with the game's first run as Phil Carey drove him with a RBI single to the gap in right center field.
Liberty tied the game in the top of the third inning as Derek Bennion walked to lead off the inning, while Chad Miller was issued a two out walk three batters later. After an infield single by Michael Just loaded the bases, Aaron Grijalva singled back up the middle to plate Bennion and tie the game at 1-1.
The score remained the same until the sixth inning when Liberty broke out for seven unearned runs that were aided by two Winthrop errors. A throwing error by pitcher Heath Rollins on a force play at third base allowed Phillip Laurent to score and start the seven-run frame.
Chad Miller followed with a three-RBI bases clearing triple to the gap in right center field, while Grijalva chopped a single into left field to plate Miller. A fielding error by second baseman Chris Carrara off a batted ball by Laurent allowed Michael Just to score, while a RBI base hit to left field by P.K. Keller capped off the inning that allowed Liberty to take an 8-1 lead.
Winthrop cut into the margin as Repec reached base on a fielder's choice play, while Tommy Lentz was struck by a pitch. Two batters later, Ben Ehrlich dropped a single down the left field line to drive in Repec and Lentz, trimming the Flames' lead to 8-3.
The Flames added an insurance run in the top of the eighth inning as Miller started the frame by reaching on a misplay by Ehrlich on a close play at first base. After stealing both second and third base, Miller scored on a base hit to center field by Laurent to push Liberty's lead to 9-3.
Winthrop made a push to get back into the game as the Eagles plated two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Jacob Dempsey started the frame by drawing a walk, while Repec followed with a single to left field. Phil Carey singled to the gap to right center field to drive in Dempsey, while Mitch Saum lofted a ball to center field to allow Repec to score and cut the lead to 9-5.
The Eagles continued to trim the lead as they got within three runs as a RBI single by Repec drove in Rollins, but Tim John was able to get Lentz to strikeout looking to end the game and pick up his fourth save of the year.
Dustin Umberger picked up the victory for Liberty to improve to 4-2 on the year by allowing five runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings of work. John finished off the final 1 2/3 innings by allowing the single run on a hit.
Rollins suffered the loss as he allowed eight runs, one of which was earned, on seven hits as he struck out nine batters and walked six to fall to 11-4 on the year. Ben Hildreth (1.2 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO) and Eddie Tisdale (1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO) finished off the final three-plus innings of action.
Offensively, the Flames had their top six hitters pick up a victory as Grijalva was 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI. Keller followed by going 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Miller was 1-for-4 with two run scored and three RBI. Carey led the Eagles from the plate as he was 3-for-4 with two RBI, while Repec was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and a RBI.
Liberty University Head Coach Matt Royer
"I am really pleased with the way Dustin Umberger pitched today. Umberger going into the eighth was huge. He threw all three pitches for strikes and had good location. I am proud at how well our team we played today."
Winthrop University Head Coach Joe Hudak
"If we could take that one inning of it, it would have been a great ballgame, but we can't. We just didn't play very well and didn't play good defense. It was a typical big inning. When you give up seven unearned runs, it is tough to win a ballgame. When you are in a tournament and you're playing a good club, and you make that many mistakes, you are gonna get beat. I'm proud of the guys. We tried hard to come back, but once you get that far down, it's really hard to come back. We played hard, we just didn't play very well."