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#6 seed UNC Asheville Hands #5 seed Liberty First Setback in Game 9 of the Big South Baseball Championship
The #6 seed UNC Asheville staved off elimination by handing the #5 seed Liberty Flames their first defeat of the tournament in Game 9 of the 2006 Big South Baseball Championship, Saturday afternoon. The contest had been halted due to thunderstorms with high winds and heavy rains, Friday night with the Bulldogs leading 3-1 in the top of the eighth inning.
With its first setback in the double elimination tournament, the #5 seed Liberty now plays #2 seed Winthrop around 2 p.m. this afternoon. The winner advances to play #6 seed UNC Asheville immediately after the conclusion of that game, while the loser is eliminated.
UNC Asheville opened the game with a run in their first at bat. Shortstop Matt Henson and first baseman Elliott Arrington hit back-to-back singles with one out. Henson moved to third on a fly ball to right and came home with the game's first run on a bunt single by left fielder Rob Vernon.
The Bulldogs extended their advantage in the second. Right fielder Charles Pippitt walked to lead off the inning and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher K.J. Whited. Second baseman Kyle Smith followed with a single to left to plate Pippitt to put UNC Asheville up, 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, the Bulldogs pushed across another run. Vernon doubled to the left field corner to begin the inning and advance to third on a wild pitch. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Whited.
Liberty countered with its first run of the contest in the bottom of the inning. With one out, second baseman Michael Just and first baseman Aaron Grijalva both walked. Left fielder Phillip Laurent followed with a double off the top of the wall in right center to plate Just, while Grijalva was thrown out attempting to score, making it 3-1.
The Flames threatened in both the sixth and seventh, but were not able to push across a run.
With a Bulldog runner on second and two outs in the top of the eighth, play was suspended as thunderstorm with high winds and heavy rains hit the Conway area.
As the contest resumed on Saturday, Liberty put two men on with one out, but reliever Ben Buchanan retired the next two Flames to squelch the threat.
UNC Asheville stretched their lead to 4-1 with a run in the ninth. Henson singled home Smith, who had lead off the frame with a walk.
Liberty starter Tyler Light took the loss to fall to 2-2 on the season as he allowed three runs on eight hits, while striking out seven and walking three in 7 2/3 until the game was halted due to the heavy rains. Phillip Thompson took over when the contest restarted and pitched 1 1/13 innings and allowed a run on one hit.
UNC Asheville starter Graham Baughn ran his record to 4-2 as he held the Flames in check over 6 2/3 innings as he allowed one run on three hits, while striking out four and walking five. The right-hander was relieved by Buchanan who retired the lone batter he faced in the seventh before the rain came. He finished the game on Saturday and allowed no runs on no hits over 2 2/3 innings.