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Liberty Challenges No. 21 Texas Tech, Falls 6-5
In a hard-fought battle, the Lady Flames pushed the Red Raiders into nine innings, before No. 21 Texas Tech slipped past Liberty, 6-5, at the USF The Game Tournament.
It was the first time Texas Tech has played an extra-inning contest in 35 games, and the Red Raiders are now 35-1 on the season. The last time Texas Tech played extra innings was on Feb. 10, when the Red Raiders defeated BYU, 7-5, in eight.
Liberty drops to 8-11 on the year, concluding its 2011 spring break trip to Florida.
The Lady Flames came out swinging in the bottom of the first, scoring four runs on five hits to take a 4-0 lead over the No. 21-ranked team in the country. Sammi Shivock led off with a single through the left side on the first pitch, but was forced out at second on a fielder's choice by Katie Zavodny. Zavodny then stole second, and advanced to third on a wild pitch by starter Kelsey Dennis.
Jenny Law drove her in when she singled to right, and Kelly Strickland followed up with a single through the left side. Law scored on a single up the middle by Ashley Bensinger, and two more runs came home on a single down the left field line by Keely McMillon.
The Red Raiders recorded their first hit of the contest in the top of the second, when Logan Hall singled to left with one out. But Raven Richardson popped out and Holley Gentsch grounded into a fielder's choice to end the at-bat.
After a quiet bottom half of the second, Texas Tech stormed back to score four runs in the top of the third, tying the game. Ashley Hamada led off with an infield single, then stole second, and scored one out later when Stephanie Drewry doubled to left.
After Emily Bledsoe grounded out, Cydney Allen singled to left. Then, Sandy James tied the game with a three-run homer to right center, bringing the score to 4-all.
The Lady Flames halted the Red Raiders in the top of the fourth. With one out, Gentsch singled to left. On the next play, Hameda flied out to left, and Zavodny threw out pinch runner McKenzie Clemmons at first for the double play.
Shivock recorded her second hit of the game in the bottom of the fifth with a one-out single down the right field line. She was safe at second when Zavodny bunted to third, beating the throw for the force out to put runners on first and second.
But the runners stayed stranded, as Law popped out and Strickland grounded out to first to end the inning with the game still tied.
The Red Runners put a runner on in the top of the sixth, when Allen led off with a single through the left side. But Tiffani Smith came up with two big strikeouts, and catcher Bensinger caught pinch runner McKenzie Clemmons stealing for the third out.
Texas Tech made another threat in the top of the seventh, putting runners on second and third. Richardson led off with a single that dropped into shallow left, and Clemmons reached on a bunt single. Both runners advanced on a sac bunt by Hamada, but a fly out to center and a diving catch by Law in right ended the run with no one scoring.
After a scoreless bottom of the seventh, things got interesting in the top of the eighth. With Drewry placed on second, Bledsoe singled on a bunt, and Drewry was able to score on a muffed throw at first, giving the Red Raiders a 5-4 advantage.
The Lady Flames responded in the bottom of the eighth, as Zavodny singled on a bunt to advance pinch runner Meredith Crisante to third. After Zavodny stole second, Crisante crossed home when Law hit a sac fly to left, tying the game at 5-all. Two more Liberty outs sent the contest into the ninth inning.
With one out in the top of the ninth, Hall was able to take third on a wild pitch by Smith. After Clemmons walked, Bensinger caught her stealing at second, but Hall scored on the play to take the lead, 6-5.
With two outs and pinch runner Grace Nordan on second in the bottom of the ninth, Amber DePasquale drew a walk. Shivock then singled to shortstop, but Nordan was caught trying to score, and Texas Tech walked away with the 6-5 win.
Shivock was 3-for-5 at the plate for Liberty, while Strickland and McMillon drove in two runs apiece.
Allen was 2-for-4 with an RBI to lead the Red Raiders, while James drove in two runs.
Kermitria Ward picked up the win in the circle, improving to 5-0 on the year. She gave up five hits and struck out six batters in 8.2 innings pitched.
Smith (3-5) took the loss, giving up 10 hits and fanning six Texas Tech batters in nine complete innings of work.
The Lady Flames will now head back to Virginia, and will open Big South Conference play on Wednesday with a single game at Radford. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.