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Liberty Falls to UCF in Extra Innings
Despite leading the Knights through six innings, Liberty struggled toward the end, and UCF was able to walk away with a 4-3 victory, Wednesday night.
Three Liberty errors contributed to the loss, and UCF outhit the Lady Flames, 8-5 during the evening contest.
Liberty drops to 7-6 on the season, while the Knights improve to 10-17.
The Lady Flames started off strong, posting back-to-back singles in the top of the first. With one out, Sammi Shivock extended her hitting streak to four games with a shot to center field, followed by a single to left by Jenny Law. But the runners remained stranded, as Ashley Bensinger struck out and Kaylee West grounded out to first.
The Knights came out aggressively during their first at-bat, as well. After leadoff hitter Allie Jest drew a walk, Tawny Swan reached on a fielder's choice, as shortstop Shivock forced out Jest at second. But Swan didn't stop at first, and was safe at second before the Liberty defense could stop her.
Natalie Land followed up with a bunt single between first and second, and Swan tried to score on the play. But Johnson fielded the ball and made the play at home, keeping UCF from jumping on the board.
After a quiet second frame, the Lady Flames took a 2-0 advantage in the top of the third. With one out, Shivock walked, then Jenny Law stepped up to bust her second homer of the season, a bomb over the left field fence. Bensinger kept it going with a single through the right side, but West popped out and Kelly Strickland narrowly missed a homer of her own, flying out deep to right field.
The Lady Flames struck again in the top of the fifth, extending the score to 3-0. Jill Stephens led off with a walk, and moved to second when Shivock singled through the right side. Both runners advanced when Law grounded back to relief pitcher Diana Rojas, and Stephens scored on a deep sac fly to right by Bensinger.
The Knights threatened in the bottom of the fifth, putting runners in scoring position. With two outs, Tiffany Lane walked, and moved to second when Jest singled to shortstop. But the Lady Flames got out of the jam on the next play, when Swan lined out to left fielder Meredith Crisante.
The Knights closed in on the Lady Flames in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs to draw within one run, 3-2. Land led off with a solo homer to right center, and cleanup hitter Abby McClain followed up with a single and immediate steal. Two groundouts later, McClain scored on a Liberty fielding error to bring UCF to within one run.
Liberty almost padded its lead in the top of the seventh, putting runners on first and second. With one out, Shivock walked, and one out later, moved to second when Bensinger was hit by a pitch. But the score remained unchanged as a West fly out to left sent the contest into bottom of the seventh inning.
Liberty was two outs away from a win in the bottom of the seventh, but two errors contributed to a UCF run, tying the game at 3-3. After Jest singled, Swan reached on a catcher's interference call. Jest then scored on a throwing error to first on a grounder by Land, tying the game.
After Liberty came up empty in the top of the eighth, the Knights took advantage of Lady Flames struggles in the bottom of the inning to score the winning run. Reliever Tiffani Smith struck out the first two batters, but Lane reached on a walk. She then moved to second on an illegal pitch call, and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Leadoff batter Jest drew a walk, then stole second, and Swan came up with an infield single to drive in a run and cement the 4-3 win for the Knights.
Law led the Lady Flames, batting 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Shivock was 2-for-2 at the plate.
The Knights were led by Land, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Smith (3-3) suffered the loss, giving up one hit and one earned run in 0.2 innings. Starter Johnson threw seven complete innings, giving up seven hits and one earned run while striking out three.
Lacey Dinney picked up the win in the circle, giving up no hits and no runs and fanning two Liberty batters in three innings of relief work.
The Lady Flames are back in action in Tampa tomorrow, facing off against No. 22 Texas A&M. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m.