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Robertson, Thompson Lift Flames Past Bulldogs
Right fielder Michael Robertson had three hits, including a home run, and drove in four runs and catcher Nathan Thompson had two hits and three RBIs, leading the Liberty Flames to a 9-4 win over the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs, Saturday afternoon in a Big South contest at Worthington Stadium.
With the win, the Flames run their Big South record to 14-3 in conference play and 31-12 overall. In addition with their 11th straight conference win, Liberty sets a new program standard for consecutive conference wins. The mark surpasses the 2001 Flames who had won 10 consecutive conference contests.
The loss drops Gardner-Webb to 7-10 in the Big South and 20-22 overall.
Liberty opened the contest by striking for a run in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs and third baseman Tyler Bream on first base after a fielder's choice grounder, designated hitter Justin Richardson laced a double into the right field corner to plate the runner, giving the Flames a 1-0 advantage.
Liberty followed with three more runs in its next at bat. Second baseman P.J. Jimenez legged out infield single and Thompson was hit by a pitch to open the frame. Robertson follow by blasting his third home run of the season over the right-center field wall, quickly extending the lead to 4-0.
In the third inning, the Flames once again added to their advantage. With one out, shortstop Matt Williams singled to left field and moved to second on a ground out. The next batter, Thompson, lined a two-out single through the left side of the infield to bring home Williams, giving Liberty a 5-0 lead.
The visiting Bulldogs got on the scoreboard with their first run of the contest in the fourth. With one out, left fielder Kurt Fulginiti singled and scored on a two-out double by right fielder Jake Watts, cutting the Flames' lead to 5-1.
In the fifth inning, the teams exchanged single run frames. First baseman Josh Drewery led off the top of the inning with his ninth home run of the year, a rising liner to straight-away center field. Liberty countered in the bottom of the stanza on a one-out double into the left field corner by Thompson, cashing in Williams, who had also doubled into the left field corner, leading off the home half of the fifth.
Gardner-Webb trimmed its deficit to three runs in the top of the seventh inning. Designated hitter O.J. McFarland singled and Drewery doubled to open the frame. Third baseman Brad Collins made it three consecutive Bulldogs hits, with a RBI off the wall in right. Two batters later, second baseman Daniel Merck singled, scoring Drewery and cutting the Liberty lead to 7-4.
The Flames answered in the bottom of the inning, with two runs. Thompson brought home the first run of the inning with a fielder's choice grounder. Robertson followed with a RBI single, upping Liberty's lead to 8-4.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Flames added an insurance run on a single by Bream for the final score of 9-4.
Liberty starter Steven Evans moves to 6-1 on the year. The left hander allowed four runs on nine hits over the first 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter. Reliever Dane Beakler finished out the contest, with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, picking up his first save of the year. He struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Gardner-Webb starter Brock Wilson drops to 4-3 on the season. He gave up six runs on eight hits over five innings, striking out one and walking one. Brett Stackhouse allowed three runs on four hits during three innings of relief.
Williams joined Robertson and Thompson with multi-hit games for the Flames, with two hits in the contest. McFarland, Drewery and Collins each had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb and Liberty will wrap-up their three-game Big South series tomorrow afternoon at Worthington Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.