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Softball to Open Conference Play, Host Home-Opener this Week
After competing in 12 games in 10 days during a road trip to Florida, the Lady Flames are back in their home state this week to not only open Big South Conference play, but to host their 2011 home-opener, as well.
Liberty will play its first conference game of the season tomorrow, traveling down the road to Radford, Va., to take on the reigning Big South Champion Highlanders in a single game at 3 p.m. The following day, Liberty will host non-conference opponent Cornell in a doubleheader at Liberty Softball Field, marking the first home games of the year.
Liberty is 8-11 on the year after nearly upsetting the No.21-ranked team in the country, Texas Tech, on Sunday morning. The Red Raiders needed nine innings to get past the Lady Flames, 6-5. It was only the second time this season, and the first time in 35 games, that Texas Tech had been pushed to extra innings.
The Lady Flames will attempt to halt a three-game skid after dropping consecutive contests to Chattanooga, Buffalo and No. 21 Texas Tech. Liberty's last win came in the form of a 6-4 decision over Long Island last Friday in Clearwater, Fla.
The Liberty offense has been getting more consistent, recording nine or more hits in three of the last four games. The Lady Flames have also been quick around the bases, posting four stolen bases in three of the last four contests.
Freshman Sammi Shivock came into her own during the Florida trip, batting .400 with two home runs and only one strikeout during the 12-game span. She currently ranks second on the squad with a .278 overall batting average and a .375 on-base percentage, and leads the team with 11 runs scored. In addition, Shivock strung together a six-game hitting streak during the trip, the longest for Liberty this season.
Junior power hitter Kelly Strickland has the highest batting average (.302), and is currently on a four-game hitting streak. She also leads the team in home runs (three) and total bases (26).
Sophomore Katrina Johnson (4-4) leads the Lady Flames pitching staff and ranks fourth in the Big South with a 2.05 ERA, after going 3-3 in the circle in the Sunshine State. Senior Tiffani Smith is 3-5 with 42 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched.
Wednesday, March 23
Liberty at Radford, 3 p.m. (Single game)
Thursday, March 24
Cornell at Liberty, 2 p.m. (DH)
Saturday, March 26
Radford at Liberty, 1 p.m. (DH)
Following the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available on LibertyFlames.com via GameTracker for all games this week. In addition, the Flames Sports Network will be covering the games tomorrow and Thursday, as Nick Pierce provides play-by-play from behind the backstop.
Scouting the Field
The Highlanders have won four in a row, with three of those victories coming as shutouts. Radford went 4-1 at the Radford Invitational last weekend, dropping a 2-1 contest to Pittsburgh before defeating Robert Morris, Ball State, Georgetown and Delaware.
The reigning Big South Player and Pitcher of the Week are part of the Highlander squad. Junior infielder Nichole Beall hit .591 on the week last week, going 13-for-22 at the plate with five multi-hit games. She was also named the Radford Invitational Offensive MVP. Beall currently leads all Big South players with 29 hits and six home runs in 2011.
Beall's teammate, Jackie Jenkins, was named the Co-Most Valuable Pitcher at the Radford Invitational and also earned Big South Pitcher of the Week honors. She picked up three wins last week and allowed no runs in 18 innings. The Radford pitching staff currently ranks second in the Big South (behind Presbyterian College), posting a 1.96 staff ERA.
The Lady Flames are 23-28 all-time against the Highlanders, after taking a commanding 9-1 win last year at Liberty Softball Field to conclude the three-game series on March 23.
Liberty has struggled at Highlander Field in the past, going 2-10 at the facility over the last five years.
The Big Red and Liberty met four times between 1994 and 1998, with Cornell winning all but one of those meetings.
Cornell is playing four straight road doubleheaders this week, starting at George Washington today, Virginia Tech tomorrow, Liberty Thursday and Longwood on Friday.
The team, part of the Ivy League, has won two in a row after defeating George Mason and Howard over the weekend. The Big Red only gave up one run in those two games combined.
As a team, Cornell has put up seven or more hits in the last five games, including 10 hits against Howard on Sunday. The squad is hitting .255, while its opponents are hitting .215 this season.
Senior outfielder Marissa Amiraian is hitting .400 to lead the team, and sophomore catcher Kristen Towne has tallied seven RBIs on the year.
The pitching staff holds an overall ERA of 1.38, and is paced by sophomore Elizabeth Dalrymple, who is 2-3 with a 0.52 ERA and 44 strikeouts. Dalrymple is a two-time Ivy League Pitcher of the Year.
Cornell won the last contest against Liberty, 6-3, on March 17, 1998. The Lady Flames' only win over the Big Red came on March 23, 1996, as a 2-1 victory at the Radford Tournament in Radford, Va.