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Liberty to Host Manhattan for Weekend Tilts
After two contests on the road, the Liberty Flames (11-4, 0-0 Big South) return home this weekend, for a three-game series with the Manhattan Jaspers (8-4, 0-0 MAAC). The defending MAAC regular season champions, the Jaspers were picked to win the 2010 MAAC crown in the conference's preseason coaches poll.
The series opens on Friday at 3 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. start time for Saturday. The series concludes on Sunday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
Last Time Out
A two-out, infield single with runners at the corners in the bottom of the 11th innning allowed the Duke Blue Devils to edge the Flames, 3-2, Wednesday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
In the contest, Liberty recieved two strong pitching preformances from Dustin Umberger and J.J. McLeod. Umberger made his first start of the season and allowed one run on one hit over the game's first five innings. McLeod, the last of four Flames to take the mound in the game, gave up one run on four hits over 4 1/3 innings of relief. The right-hander struck out five Blue Devils and walked two. The junior pitched out of several threats, including a base loaded, one out situation in the seventh inning after being summoned from the bullpen.
Right-fielder Michael Robertson tripled in one of the two Liberty runs in the game, while Justin Richardson single home the other.
Liberty will start a four-game road trip, with a contest at Virginia Tech, Tuesday. The contest will be the only meeting of the season between the Flames and the Hokies. Game time is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Flames on the Air
Sunday's series finale between Manhattan and Liberty may be heard LIVE on WWMC 90.9 FM "The Light." Nick Pierce will handle play-by-play duties and former Flames pitcher Doug Wallace will provide commentary. The broadcast will also be available on the World Wide web at both LibertyFlames.com and thelightonline.com.
Liberty Head Coach Jim Toman is in his third year at the helm of the Flames. In his first two seasons, he guided the Flames to 68 wins, the most during the first two years under any head coach in program history, and best winning percentage (.591) over the same span.
Last season, Liberty posted the most victories in Big South Conference play with a 17-9 mark, since joining the conference in 1992. The Flames recorded an overall record of 33-21 in Toman's second year.
A 21-year member of the college coaching ranks, he served 18 years as a member of Ray Tanner's staffs at South Carolina and N.C. State. Toman was named the 2002 Baseball America/American Baseball Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year and recruited 15 top 25 classes, including all 11 of his seasons at South Carolina. From 2003-2006, three of the four Gamecock recruiting classes were ranked first in the nation by Collegiate Baseball.
During his time in Columbia, S.C., Toman and the Gamecocks made nine NCAA Regional appearances, including eight-straight since 2000, and three-consecutive trips to the College World Series (2002-04). Add in his seven seasons at N.C. State, and Toman has helped lead 15 teams to NCAA Regional appearances.
Kevin Leighton is in his fifth year at the helm of the Manhattan Jaspers. The 2009 MAAC Coach of the Year, Leighton led the Jaspers to a 35-18 mark and the MAAC Regular Season Championship last season. The regular season title was the second consecutive crown for Manahattan. In 2006, he led the Jaspers to the school's first-ever MAAC title and a NCAA Regional berth.
The 24th coach in program history, Leighton is already is its third winningest coach and was the quickiest to Jaspers head coach to reach 100 wins. He is also ranks among the youngest Division I coaches to reach the plateau. In his five years, Manhattan has posted a 143-82-1 record.
Two of Lehighton's players have recieved All-American honors, while seven have been named Freshman All-Americans.
Scouting the Jaspers
Manhattan enters this weekend's series having won seven out of its last eight contests. In their latest contest Wednesday, the Jaspers defeated Seton Hall, 3-2. The Jaspers were picked to win the MAAC this season in the conference's preseason coaches' poll.
The 2009 Jaspers finished fifth in NCAA Division I and set the MAAC single season record with a .349 team batting average. And, Manhattan has picked up where it left off last season, batting .335 as team. With their early hitting prowless, the Jaspers have averaged 8.8 runs per game this season.
Third baseman Chad Salem, the MAAC Player of the Week, has had a strong start to the year, hitting .500, with a team-leading 21 runs scored and 15 RBIs. Teammates Mark Onorati and Kevin Nieto also enter the weekend with batting averages over .400. Onoarati, an outfielder, has hit .467 in 11 games. Nieto, a 2009 All-American outfielder, has posted a .438 batting average.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan pitching staff has given up 8.6 runs per game this season, beginning the weekend with a 7.35 ERA.
MAAC Pitcher of the Week, Tom Costigan, allowed only one run over eight innings in his last outing Friday in a 13-1 win at West Virginia. The senior has recorded a 2-1 mark with a 5.79 ERA in three apperances this season and is expected to start Friday's game.
Relievers John Soldinger and Tom Moran have been the workhorses of the staff, so far. Soldinger has made six appearances and pitched 11 innings. He has earned four saves with a 1.64 ERA. He is striking out one batter per inning pitch.
Moran has also made six appearances. He enters the weekend with a 4.50 ERA in six innings of work.
Home Sweet Home
For the past 32 years, the Flames have called Worthington Stadium home. Named for program architect and first Liberty head baseball coach, Al Worthington, Liberty has compiled an impressive 510-231-5 record at the stadium for a winning percentage of .687 since the facility's inception in 1979.
After completing their first homestand of the season, last Sunday, the Flames have posted a 5-2 record at Worthington this season. Liberty is slated to play 28 contests at home in 2010.
The Flames finished the 2009 regular season with a 19-5 record at the facility and are 33-18-1 at home under three-year head coach Jim Toman's guidance.
Making It Tough to Score
Liberty enters this weekend's series, allowing its opponents 3.8 runs per game The mark currentl ranks 13th in the country. UCLA tops the list, yielding 2.4 runs per game this season.
The Flames have gotten on the scoreboard first in 12 of its 15 contests this season. Liberty is 11-1, when scoring first.
One of the keys to the Flames' early season success has been the performance of their three weekend starters, Shawn Teufel, Keegan Linza and Steven Evans.
The trio has combined to post a 9-0 record during their weekend starts, with a 1.14 ERA. All three hurlers have each recorded 3-0 marks this season. During their weekend starts, teams have hit .171 against the trio and struck out 62 times.