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Liberty Rallies Past High Point with Big Ninth Inning
Down by two runs, the Liberty Flames erupted for seven runs in the ninth inning for a 14-9 victory over the High Point Panthers, Sunday afternoon, in a Big South Conference contest at Coy O. Willard Stadium.
Trailing 9-7, Liberty pounced on High Point relief pitching, batting around in the top of the ninth inning to take the lead. The Flames scored seven runs on seven hits and an error to erase the host team's edge. Designated hitter Justin Richardson led off the rally with single to right-center field. Third baseman Tyler Bream followed by lacing an offering into the left field corner to score the runner and close within one run at 9-8. After a pitching change by the Panthers, first baseman Austin Taylor tied the contest at 9-9 by lining a double down the left field line.
The Flames then took the lead when a grounder by the next batter, catcher Jeff Jefferson, was misplayed by shortstop Preston Packrall, allowing Taylor to score, giving Liberty its first lead since the second inning at 10-9. Jefferson then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Zach Haley and third base on a single by center fielder Ian Parmley. Right fielder Michael Robertson and shortstop Matt Williams followed with back-to-back singles to plate runs, extending the Liberty advantage to 12-9. Left fielder Doug Bream then capped the seven-run outburst with a two-run double to wall in center field.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Panthers were able to put runners on first and second base with one out, but Liberty was able to close out the win with a double play grounder.
Liberty moves to 7-5 in Big South play and 17-16 overall. With the win, the Flames take the three-game series from High Point, two games to one. High Point drops to 4-8 in conference and 17-18 overall.
For the second straight day, the Flames jumped on the Willard Stadium scoreboard first. Doug Bream led off the top of the second inning with an opposite field single to left, and scored when Richardson ripped a double into the right field corner for a 1-0 lead. After Tyler Bream followed with a single to put Liberty runners on the corners, Taylor lifted a sacrifice fly into deep right field to score Richardson.
Two batters later, Haley singled sharply to left field. Jefferson, who had reached on a fielder's choice, came around to score on the hit, as the Panther catcher Zach Tessier let the throw from left fielder Drew Geissinger get by him. On the play, Haley moved all the way to third base, and came home on a bunt single by Parmley for a 4-0 edge.
In the bottom of the second inning, High Point countered with six runs. The Panthers used a single by center fielder Ryan Retz, a walk and hit batter to load the bases with one out.
Shortstop Packrall followed with a run-scoring single to right field for the first High Point run of the game. After third baseman Mike Mercurio was hit by a pitch with the bases full to force in a run, Geissinger lined a double into the left field corner, bringing home two more Panthers, tying the game at 4-4.
Two batters later, designated hitter Scott Glover lifted a run-scoring sacrifice fly to give High Point the lead at 5-4. Second baseman Murray White IV followed with a single to plate the final run of the frame for a 6-4 Panther advantage.
The two teams exchanged runs in the third inning. Liberty's Williams opened the top of the third inning with single and promptly moved into scoring position by stealing second base. The next batter, Doug Bream, lined a single into right-center field to plate Williams. High Point scored on a leadoff double by Tessier and a single by Packrall to make it 7-5 Panthers.
High Point extended its advantage in the sixth inning. Right fielder Steve Antolik beat out an infield single and moved to second base on a throwing error by Flames third baseman Tyler Bream. Glover followed with double into the right field corner to cash in Antolik, upping the Panther advantage to 8-5. Later in the frame, first baseman Kyle Mahoney lifted a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded, giving the Panthers a 9-5 lead.
Held scoreless for three innings, Liberty pushed across a run in the seventh inning. Robertson led off the frame with a single, and scored when Williams ripped a double off the left-center field wall, cutting the High Point lead to 9-6.
The Flames plated a run in the eighth to trim the home team's advantage to 9-7. With one out, Haley was hit by a pitch and stole second. After moving to third base on an infield single by Parmley, Robertson grounded a single through the left side of the diamond, scoring Haley and slicing the Liberty deficit to 9-7, leading to the uprising in the ninth.
Reliever Mark Swanson evens his record at 1-1 on the year. After entering the contest with runners on second and third base and no one out, the senior right-hander kept the Flames close, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. The fourth of five Liberty pitchers in the contest, he gave up only one hit, striking out three and not walking a batter
High Point's Mikael Roddenberg falls to 0-1 on the season. The fourth of five Panthers to take the mound in the contest, he gave up three runs on three hits in an inning of work.
Liberty had 19 hits in the game. For the second consecutive day, Doug Bream had four hits to lead all players in the contest. The Liberty left fielder hit .643 during the three-game series against the Panthers. Parmley, Robertson and Williams each had three hits apiece for the Flames.
High Point had 13 hits in the contest, and four Panthers had two hits apiece.
Liberty steps out of conference, Tuesday. The Flames will travel over the Blue Ridges to Harrisonburg, Va., for a contest with the James Madison Dukes. Game time is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.