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Win Streak Comes to End in Extra Innings
A run in the 10th inning gave the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs a 5-4 victory over the Liberty Flames, snapping the Flames' seven-game winning streak, Friday night in a Big South game at John Henry Moss Stadium.
Liberty falls to 15-7 in Big South Conference action and 29-20 overall. Gardner-Webb moves to 13-9 in conference play and 29-17-1 overall. The setback ends the Flames' longest winning streak of the season at seven games.
The visiting Flames jumped on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning. With one out, catcher Casey Rasmus drew a base on balls. Shortstop Matt Williams followed by blasting his seventh home run of the season. The liner over the left field wall gave Liberty a 2-0 advantage.
Gardner-Webb answered in the bottom of the inning with a run of its own. Left fielder Jake Watts singled with two out and stole second base. He then scored on a single by first baseman Dusty Quattlebaum to make it, 2-1 Flames.
Liberty extended its lead in the top of the sixth. Center fielder Ian Parmley singled through the left side of the infield and Rasmus was hit by a pitch to open the inning. Williams then walked, loading the bases. Two batters later, designated hitter Justin Richardson singled sharply back through the middle of the infield, plating Parmley for a 3-1 advantage.
In the bottom of the inning, the Runnin' Bulldogs scored three runs to take their first advantage of the night. Gardner-Webb strung together three-straight one-out hits to tie the game. After back-to-back singles by center fielder Benji Jackson and second baseman Daniel Merck, Watts lined a double to the warning track in right field to bring both runners home and tie the game at 3-3. Two batters later with Watts on third base, shortstop Aaron Miller scored him by beating out a well-placed, two-out bunt down the first base line for a 4-3 edge.
The Flames answered in the top of the seventh. Third baseman Tyler Bream opened the inning with a double to the warning track in left field and moved to third base on a single by first baseman Austin Taylor. Second baseman Zack Haley followed with a run-producing single, tying the game at 4-4. Liberty went on to load the bases with two out, but Gardner-Webb reliever Brett Stackhouse was able to strand the runners to keep the contest knotted.
Neither team was able to move a runner past second base over the next 2 ½ innings. Liberty reliever Garrett Baker allowed only a two-out single by Watts in the eighth inning. Meanwhile, Jeff Howell held the Flames off the scoreboard.
In the 10th inning, Gardner-Webb plated the winning run on several Liberty miscues. With one out, Scott Coleman singled and moved to second base on a fielding error by Flames left fielder Ryan Cordell. Danny Yelverton, who had entered the game in the eighth inning, followed with a grounder to first base, which was mishandled by Taylor. The Liberty first baseman then threw wildly to home plate, allowing Coleman to score for the 5-4 Gardner-Webb win.
Despite an outstanding relief effort, Baker, the second pitcher on the night for the Flames, drops to 6-4 on the year. The left-hander gave up one run on three hits over four innings. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter.
Howell, the last of four Bulldog pitchers in the contest, moves to 4-1 on the season. The reliever pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Liberty totaled eight hits in the game. Haley had two hits for the Flames. Gardner-Webb had 12 hits. Watts had three hits to lead all batters in the contest.
Liberty and Gardner-Webb will square off tomorrow in the middle game of the three-game series. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.