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Liberty Holds Off Gardner-Webb, 3-2
The Liberty Flames held off a Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs ninth-inning rally for a 3-2 victory, Sunday in a Big South contest at John Henry Moss Stadium.
With the win, Liberty takes the three-game series, two games to one. The Flames move to 17-7 in Big South play and 31-20 overall. Gardner-Webb drops to 13-11 in the conference and 29-19-1 overall.
Each team posted a run in the game's opening inning. Liberty center fielder Ian Parmley led off the game by ripping a liner into the left field corner for a triple. Right fielder Michael Robertson followed with a single through the right side of infield to plate the first run of the game. In the bottom of the inning, Gardner-Webb center fielder Benji Jackson doubled off the center field wall, opening the frame. He scored two batters later on a ground out by left fielder Jake Watts.
The Flames staked themselves to an advantage with a single run in the second. With one out, first baseman Austin Taylor singled sharply to center field. After Taylor stole second base, second baseman Zack Haley dropped a single into center field, cashing in the runner for a 2-1 lead.
Liberty extended its advantage in the fifth. Haley singled with one out and moved to second base when Parmley walked. The next batter, Robertson, grounded to third base. However, Bulldog third baseman Scott Coleman missed tagging Haley on his way to third base and was late with a throw to second base in an attempt to get Parmley, loading the bases with Flames.
Shortstop Matt Williams then lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, bringing home Haley for a 3-1 edge.
Meanwhile, Liberty starter Keegan Linza settled in and did not allow a Runnin' Bulldog past first base through the seventh inning. However, after the Flames stranded runners at third base in both the top of the seventh and eighth innings, the Runnin' Bulldogs threatened by putting runner on the corners with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Reliever Garrett Baker was summoned from the Liberty bullpen and promptly got second baseman Daniel Merck to bounce into a double play to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Gardner-Webb rallied. Watts led off the inning with a single and two batters later, advanced to second base on a fielding error by Liberty third baseman Tyler Bream on a ground ball by shortstop Aaron Miller. With two out, pinch hitter Danny Yelverton singled to left, scoring Watts to make it, 3-2, and moving Yelverton, the tying run, to third base. Flames reliever Dane Beakler entered the game and closed out the Liberty victory by inducing a ground ball by Coleman to end the game.
Linza moves to 9-3 on the year. The right-hander's victory total is the most in a single season during the senior's career. Last year, he posted eight wins. Linza allowed one run on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out four batters and walked one.
Baker pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief, giving up one run on two hits. Beakler recorded the last out to earn his third save of the season.
Gardner-Webb starter Kyle Paeplow falls to 3-3. The left-hander gave up three runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. The first of three Bulldog pitchers in the game struck out four batters and walked two.
Liberty totaled eight hits in the game. Parmley and Haley each had two hits for the Flames. Gardner-Webb had nine hits. Jackson and Merck had two hits apiece for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
The Flames return home for the final four games of the regular season. Tuesday, Liberty will host the VCU Rams in a non-conference game at Worthington Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.