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Sizemore Homers, Evans Goes Distance in Liberty Win
Designated hitter Justin Sizemore put the Liberty Flames into the lead with a two-run home run, backing a complete game by Steven Evans in a 6-4 win over the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, Saturday afternoon in a Big South game at John Henry Moss Stadium.
With the win, Liberty moves to 16-7 in conference play and 30-20 overall. For the seventh consecutive year, the Flames have won 30 or more games in a campaign, and they have done so in each of head coach Jim Toman's four seasons at Liberty. Gardner-Webb falls to 13-10 in Big South play and 29-18-1 overall.
Evans went the full nine innings for his second-straight outing and third time this season, running his record to 6-3 on the year. The senior left-hander allowed four runs on five hits. He struck out seven and walked one. The win was the 25th career victory for Evans, moving him into second on the all-time Liberty list. He also moves into third on school's career innings pitched list with 310 1/3.
Gardner-Webb staked itself to an early lead in the first inning. Shortstop Aaron Miller was hit by a pitch and second baseman Daniel Merck singled to open the frame. Two batters later, first baseman Brad Collins connected for his second home run of the season, putting the Runnin' Bulldogs up, 3-0.
Liberty plated its first run of the game in the top of the second. Sizemore led off the inning with a single back through the middle of the infield and two batters later, moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Casey Rasmus. First baseman Austin Taylor followed by ripping a double off the left field wall, scoring Sizemore to cut the Bulldog advantage to 3-1.
In the fourth, the Flames struck for three runs to take an advantage. Center fielder Ian Parmley and right fielder Michael Robertson each singled, leading off the inning. Parmley then moved to third base on a fielder's choice grounder by shortstop Matt Williams and cut the Gardner-Webb lead to 3-2 by scoring on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Tyler Bream. Sizemore followed by blasting a two-out home run over the left wall. The sophomore's fourth round tripper of the year gave Liberty a 4-3 edge.
The Flames upped their advantage, benefitting from two Bulldog miscues. With two out, second baseman Zack Haley was hit by a pitch and advanced to all the way to third when Gardner-Webb pitcher Brock Wilson's pickoff attempt was wide of the first base bag and sailed down the right field line. He then made it, 5-3, Liberty, by scoring on an error by Merck on a grounder by Parmley to second base.
In the seventh, the Runnin' Bulldogs plated a run to trim the Flames' advantage to a single run. Left fielder Matt Sapp walked and center fielder Danny Yelverton was hit by a pitch to open the inning. A bunt by pinch hitter John Harris was played for an out by Liberty pitcher Steven Evans at third base. However in an attempt to get Harris at first, Bream's low throw got by Taylor, allowing both runners to move into scoring position at second and third base. Miller then lifted a sacrifice fly to left, cutting the Liberty edge to 5-4.
The Flames answered in the top of the eighth. Left fielder Ryan Cordell led off the inning by splitting the right field gap with a liner which rolled all the way to the warning track for a double.
Rasmus then grounded back to Bulldog reliever Connor Scarborough, who in an attempt to catch Cordell straying too far from the bag at second, threw the ball into center field. Cordell came around to score on the error, extending the Liberty lead to the final score of 6-4.
Evans pitched a scoreless eighth and retired the side in order in the ninth to close out the victory.
Gardner-Webb starter Erik Heilgenstadt drops to 3-5 on the season. He gave up four runs on 10 hits, striking out two and walking one batter. He was the first of four Bulldogs to pitch in the game.
Liberty had 11 hits in the game. Parmley, Rasmus, Robertson and Sizemore had two hits apiece for the Flames. Collins had three hits for Gardner-Webb.
The two teams will meet tomorrow in the final contest of the three-game Big South series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.