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Lady Flames Head to Conway for Big South Tournament
The No. 2 seed Liberty Lady Flames (37-16, 13-5 Big South) travel to Conway, S.C. to square off against the No. 7 seed Presbyterian College Blue Hose at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the first round of the Big South Softball Championship presented by Musco Lighting.
Liberty, 5-3 all-time against Presbyterian, went 1-2 in the regular season against the Blue Hose. This season marks the first year Presbyterian College is eligible for the postseason tournament.
If Liberty wins, the Lady Flames will take on the winner of No. 3 Winthrop vs. No. 6 Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m. However, a loss will set up a Friday morning matchup against the loser of No. 4 Gardner-Webb and No. 5 Charleston Southern at 9 a.m. The remainder of the double-elimination tournament will continue through Saturday, when the conference champion will be crowned after Game 12 or Game 13 (if necessary). The tournament champion claims the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Softball Tournament.
The Flames on the Radio
Thursday's game can be heard on 90.9 FM WWMC "The Light." In addition, the live broadcast can be heard via webcast at www.thelightonline.com and www.LibertyFlames.com. The station will carry all Liberty softball tournament games as long as the team remains in the championship.
The Championship on the Web
All 2010 Big South Championship games will be available live on a video stream via the conference web site, the Big South Network. Tournament games will be available via the $6.95 Day Pass - which covers all games played that day - or the $14.95 Full Championship Pass, which features the tournament in its entirety. Log onto www.bigsouthsports.com for more information. In addition, live stats will be available on the Liberty web site, free of charge.
Lady Flames at the Big South Championship
This year marks Liberty's 17th appearance in the Big South Championship, and the second time the Lady Flames enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed, as Liberty also garnered the No. 2 slot in 1999. Liberty has posted a 30-30 record at the Big South Championship since 1994, winning the title in 2002. Last season, Liberty, as the No. 3 seed, made its fifth Big South Championship title game appearance, falling to Radford, 10-1.
2010 Big South Championship presented by Musco Lighting- Schedule
Thursday, May 13 (at Conway, S.C.)
Game 1: No. 4 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 5 Charleston Southern, 9 a.m.
Game 2: No. 2 Liberty vs. No. 7 Presbyterian, 11:30 a.m.
Game 3:No. 3 Winthrop vs. No. 6 Coastal Carolina, 2 p.m.
Game 4: No. 1 Radford vs. Game 1 winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 14 (at Conway, S.C.)
Game 6: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 9 a.m.
Game 7: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 11:30 a.m.
Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 9: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 10: Game 5 loser vs. Game 9 loser, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 9 (at Conway, S.C.)
Game 11: Game 8 loser vs. Game 10 winner, 10 a.m.
Game 12: Game 8 winner vs. Game 11 winner (finals)
Game 13: if necessary, 30 minutes after Game 12
Big South Leaders
The Lady Flames pitching staff leads the Big South games with a 2.00 ERA in conference-only games, and Tiffani Smith leads all conference pitchers with a 1.20 ERA against Big South opponents.
Freshman pitcher Kat Johnson leads the conference with a 1.97 overall ERA, while Smith leads all Big South pitchers with 194 strikeouts and a .197 opposing batting average. Smith is tied with Presbyterian's Lelsie Hensley for the most saves of the season (three).
Offensively, Kelly Strickland leads the conference with 55 RBIs and ranks second with 15 home runs on the year. Ashley Bensinger has posted the most walks in the league (36) and Cassie Hendrix has the fifth-best overall batting average (.366).
Honors for Lady Flames
Three Lady Flames have been honored by the Big South this season. Tiffani Smith and Kat Johnson each received Big South The Crons Brand Pitcher of the Week honors, and Kelly Strickland and J'nae Jefferson were named the Big South Conference Choice Hotels Player of the Week.
Smith earned the pitching honor three times this year, on March 29, April 5 and April 19, while Johnson picked up her first career honor on May 10. Smith was the only Big South pitcher to win the award three times this year.
Strickland was named the Player of the Week on March 8, and Jefferson took the awared on April 5 and May 10.
The Lady Flames had the longest winning streak in program history at 12 games (April 10 - April 21) and also picked up the most conference wins in program history (13). Liberty went a perfect 10-0 at home in conference play for only the second time, as the feat was also accomplished by the 1997 squad.
Current Players in the Record Books
J'nae Jefferson is currently seventh in program history with 48 runs scored this season, and ranks No. 5 with 62 career walks. Kelly Strickland is now third in single-season program history with 55 RBIs, and tied for fifth with 15 homers this year (current assistant coach Jessica Moore holds the singe season record with 21 bombs in 2006).
Liberty as the No. 2 Seed
This is the second time Liberty has entered the Big South Championship as the No. 2 seed, and the Lady Flames are 2-2 in the tournament in the No. 2 position. The last time Liberty was the No. 2 seed was in 1999, when the Lady Flames were eliminated by East Carolina in the finals of the consolation round.
Five Liberty players are batting .300 or higher: Cassie Hendrix (.366), J'nae Jefferson (.341), Meredith Baisden (.324), Kaylee West (.319) and Kelly Strickland (.315). In conference play, Hendrix is batting .469 and Jefferson has a .419 batting average. Strickland has knocked 15 home runs this season, while Jefferson has recorded eight bombs.
J'nae Jefferson is batting a team-high .412 in the last 10 games, with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs. Her stellar performance in a three-game series against Coastal Carolina included a 3-for-4 outing on Senior Day with a home run and four RBIs.
Meredith Baisden is batting .355 with seven RBIs and a .516 slugging percentage in the last 10 contests.
Crossing the Plate
This year's Liberty squad has outscored its opponents 290-188. The 2010 Lady Flames have scored 118 more runs than the 2009 Liberty team, and the Lady Flames have also scored the most runs among all Big South teams.
Cassie Hendrix posts a .370 batting average against left-handed pitchers, vs. a .365 average against right-handers.
As a team, the Lady Flames tend to bat well with runners in scoring position, as seven players hit .300 or better in that situation. Bridgett Woods leads the team in that category, batting .458 with runners in scoring position. Additionally, Meredith Baisden is batting .600 with the bases loaded.
Several Lady Flames have performed well under pressure. Baisden is batting .474 with two outs, and Amber DePasquale has a .383 batting average with two outs.
Pleading for the Fifth
The fifth inning has been Liberty's best this season. The Lady Flames have scored a team-high 54 runs in the fifth, and are outscoring opponents by a 54-30 margin in the fifth frame. Also, the Lady Flames are 27-2 when leading after five innings.
The Lady Flames have ended nine games in one-run margins this season, winning four contests and dropping five.
On a Streak
The longest winning streak of the season is 12 games for the Lady Flames, a program best.
Liberty enters the tournament having won four straight games to end the regular season, and freshman pitcher Kat Johnson picked up each of those wins in the circle.
J'nae Jefferson, who has tied Meredith Baisden for the longest season hitting streak (12 games) currently leads the team with a six-game hitting streak, going 12-for-22 with a .545 average during the span.
Advantage When Striking First
The Lady Flames have a 26-7 record when they are the first team to put a run on the scoreboard, and 12-4 when scoring in the first inning. But, the Lady Flames are also 10-6 when their opponents are first to score.
Notable Performances in the Postseason
Three Lady Flames were named to the 2009 All-Tournament Team: Beth Bennett, Kelly Strickland and Keely McMillon. J'nae Jefferson was named to the All-Tournament Team for her performance in the 2008 Big South Championship.
Solid Offense in Conway
In Liberty's last appearance at the Coastal Carolina Softball Complex on May 2 and 3, 2009, the Lady Flames scored 27 runs in the three-game regular season series against the Chanticleers. Liberty also tied a 2009 season-high with 12 hits in Game 2 of the series.