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No. 2 Liberty Ready for 2011 Big South Softball Championship
Click here for complete tournament notes.
The No. 2 seed Liberty Lady Flames (26-27, 11-7 Big South) will travel to Rock Hill, S.C. to square off against the No. 7 seed Winthrop Eagles (15-34, 5-13) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Big South Championship presented by Musco Lighting.
If Liberty wins, the Lady Flames will take on the winner of No. 3 seed Presbyterian College and No. 6 seed Gardner Webb at 5:30 p.m.
The remainder of the double-elimination tournament will continue through Saturday, when the conference champion will be crowned after Game 13 or Game 14 (if necessary). The tournament champion claims the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament.
The Lady Flames on the Radio
Thursday's games 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 2011 Big South Championship games will be available live on a video stream via the conference web site, www.BigSouthSports.com, for a small fee. Log onto www.bigsouthsports.com for more information. In addition, live stats will be available on the Liberty web site, free of charge.
Finally, the championship game will air live on ESPN3.com.
Lady Flames at the Big South Championship
This year marks Liberty's 18th appearance in the Big South Championship, and the second straight year the Lady Flames enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed.
Liberty has posted a 31-32 record at the Big South Championship since 1994, winning the title in 2002.
2011 Big South Championship presented by Musco Lighting - Schedule
Thursday, May 12 (at Rock Hill, S.C.)
Game 1: No. 3 Presbyterian College vs. No. 6 Gardner-Webb, 10 a.m.
Game 2: No. 2 Liberty vs. No. 7 Winthrop, 12:30 p.m.
Game 3: No. 4 Charleston Southern vs. No. 5 Coastal Carolina, 3 p.m.
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 5:30 p.m.
Game 5: No. 1 Radford vs. Winner Game 3, 8 p.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 3 vs. Lowest Losing Seed Game 1 or 2, 8 p.m.
Friday, May 13 (at Rock Hill, S.C.)
Game 7: Game 4 Loser vs. Highest Losing Seed Game 1 or 2, 10 a.m.
Game 8: Game 6 winner vs. Game 5 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 9: Game 4 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 12:30 p.m.
Game 10: TBA vs. TBA (if necessary), 5:30 p.m.
Game 11: TBA vs. TBA (if necessary), 8 p.m.
Saturday, May 14 (at Rock Hill, S.C.)
Championship Game: TBA vs. TBA, Noon
Big South Leaders
The Liberty hitters lead the conference in batting average (.283), slugging percentage (.439), runs scored (272), RBIs (250), home runs (55) and total bases (649). Additionally, the Lady Flames are the only team in the Big South to record more than 400 hits this year. Liberty has tallied 419, followed by Radford with 376.
Individually, Kelly Strickland leads the league with 15 home runs, and Strickland and Ashley Bensinger are tied for first in the conference with 38 runs scored.
In the circle, sophomore right-hander Katrina Johnson has tallied the most looking strikeouts in the Big South this year (40).
Honors for Lady Flames
Two Lady Flames have been honored by the Big South this season. Keely McMillon and Ashley Bensinger each earned Big South Conference Choice Hotels Player of the Week honors this season.
Keely McMillon won the honor on back-to-back weeks, March 28 and April 4.
Ashley Bensinger was named the Player of the Week twice as well, on April 11 and April 25. It was the first career Player of the Week accolade for both seniors.
Liberty is batting .304 as a team in conference play this year, and is the only team in the Big South to be hitting over .300 in Big South contests.
Ashley Bensinger leads the Big South with 26 hits in conference games, averaging 1.44 hits per game. She also leads the league in conference contests with 21 runs scored, two triples and 46 total bases.
Meanwhile, Keely McMillon boasts the most RBIs in league games in the Big South, with 19.
Liberty as the No. 2 Seed
This is the second time Liberty has entered the Big South Championship as the No. 2 seed, after last year's appearance. The Lady Flames are 2-2 in the tournament in the No. 2 position.
Double-Digit Conference Wins
This season marks the sixth time Liberty has won at least 10 conference games during the regular season. The Lady Flames picked up 11 victories in 1999, 2007 and 2011 and posted 10 wins in 1997. Last season, Liberty picked up a program-best 13 victories in conference play during the regular season.
Hot Hitting in Conference Play
Five Liberty players are batting .300 or higher in conference play: Ashley Bensinger (.433), Keely McMillon (.397), Kelly Strickland (.362), Amber DePasquale (.328) and Kaylee West (.305). Strickland, McMillon and Bensinger have each recorded four home runs in Big South games, while Sammi Shivock has recorded two bombs.
Terrific at Terry Field
The Lady Flames went 2-1 during the regular season at Terry Field, taking two wins in three games from host Winthrop on April 2 and 3. Keely McMillon hit .636 during that three-game series, recording two doubles and driving in four runs. Kelly Strickland hit .600 with a home run and three RBIs, and Ashley Bensinger had a .400 average with two RBIs on the weekend. Sammi Shivock also recorded a homer during that series.
The Lady Flames have recorded double-digit hits in 13 games this year, with the most recent being a 10-hit performance against Coastal Carolina on May 7.
Liberty recorded 24 hits in two games alone against Gardner-Webb (14 and 10) before busting a season-high 16 hits against Hampton on April 19. In that game, the Lady Flames' six home runs tied a program record. Also, the Lady Flames' 16 runs were the most runs the team has scored since March 3, 2003, when Liberty tallied 16 runs in a victory over North Carolina A&T.
Two Lady Flames also enjoyed career highs, as Sammi Shivock tied a program record with four runs scored, and Kelly Strickland's six RBIs were the most in a single game in the junior's career.
Ashley Bensinger posts a .521 average against left-handed pitchers, vs. a .329 average against right-handers.
Keely McMillon is even, hitting .357 against lefties and .340 against right-handers.
Kelly Strickland has recorded numerous hits in clutch situations, batting .361 with runners on base, as has McMillon who has hit .368 with runners on base.
Several Lady Flames also have impressive batting averages with the bases loaded: Meredith Crisante (.400), Amber DePasquale (.500), McMillon (.400), Jill Stephens (.500), Strickland (.571) and Kaylee West (.429).
Stephens is 8-for-25 as a pinch hitter, batting .320 in those situations.
Four Lady Flames also do well as the leadoff batter: Crisante (.423), McMillon (.400), West (.412) and Katie Zavodny (.435).
Pleading for the Fifth (and Sixth)
The fifth and sixth innings have been Liberty's best this season. The Lady Flames have scored a team-high 48 runs in both the fifth and sixth frames, and are out-scoring opponents by a 48-30 margin in the fifth, and 48-21 in the sixth.
Eight is Great
The longest winning streak of the season is eight games for the Lady Flames, which took place from April 13 to April 20. Liberty enters the tournament having won two straight games to end the regular season.
Advantage When Striking First
The Lady Flames have a 18-6 record when they are the first team to put a run on the scoreboard.
Notable Performances in the Postseason
No Liberty returning players were named to the 2010 Big South Championship All-Tournament Team, as J'nae Jefferson and Cassie Hendrix picked up the honor last year.
However, in the 2009 Big South Championship played at Radford, Kelly Strickland, then a freshman, and Keely McMillon, then a sophomore, earned All-Tournament Team honors. The Lady Flames made it all the way to the championship game that year, falling to No. 1 seed Radford in the finals.