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Liberty Closes Out Regular Season with Radford
The Liberty Flames (32-20, 17-7 Big South) hosts the Radford Highlanders (28-22, 12-12 Big South) in a three-game Big South series, Thursday-Saturday at Worthington Stadium. The series will conclude the 2011 regular season for both teams. Liberty enters the weekend, having won 10 of its last 11 games.
Thursday's and Friday's games will both scheduled to start at 7 p.m., while first pitch for Saturday's series finale is scheduled for 2 p.m. Before Saturday's contest, the nine players playing in their final games in a Liberty uniform will be honored.
Last Time Out
Shortstop Matt Williams tied the game with his second home run in the ninth inning and first baseman Austin Taylor singled home the game-winning run in the 10th inning, as the Liberty Flames defeated the VCU Rams, 8-7, in a non-conference contest, Tuesday at Worthington Stadium.
Trailing 6-0 after an 1 1/3 innings, the Flames came back to tie the game on the Williams' second home run of the game, with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. at 7-7.
In the 10th, the first three Liberty batters singled, with Taylor's single providing the game-winning run for the victory.
Reliever Dane Beakler, the fifth pitcher for Liberty in contest, moves to 3-0 on the year. He combined with Mark Swanson, who threw two scoreless innings, and Daniel Brown, who pitched a scoreless eighth, to shut down the Rams over the game's final five innings.
Liberty travels to Lexington, Va., for the 2011 Big South Baseball Championship, May 24-28, at Gray-Minor Stadium on the campus of VMI. The Flames will be one of the top two seeds for the double-elimination tournament and will begin play on May 26 against a yet to be determined opponent.
Following the Flames
Thursday's game may be heard LIVE on 90.9 FM "The Light" radio or online at LibertyFlames.com. In addition, all three contests will be video streamed LIVE. The feed will be available for a nominal fee on the Big South Network. The video stream will also be available on the World Wide Web at LibertyFlames.com. Alan York will handle play-by-play and former Flames pitcher Doug Wallace will provide commentary for the games.
Over 30 Wins
With a 6-4 win at Gardner-Webb May 14, Liberty has recorded 30 wins in a season for the seventh consecutive season, and each of its four years under head coach Jim Toman. It is the first time in the 38-year history of the program, the Flames have won 30 or more games seven-straight years.
Last season, the Flames posted a school-record 42-19 mark to record its sixth-straight season of 30 wins or more. It was the first time Liberty had accomplished the six-year feat. The 42 victories eclipsed the previous school standard of 40 set by the 1983 Liberty team. It was the second time in the program's history a team posted 40 or more wins in a year.
Before this current streak started, the Liberty baseball program had never won 30 or more games for four consecutive years. Previously, the Flames had posted 30 or more victories for three consecutive seasons from 2000-02.
Liberty enters Thursday's contest with an 8-1 record in the month of May. The Flames will complete their regular-season schedule during the month with 12 scheduled games. Nine of the 12 are Big South Conference contests.
Liberty went 12-7 in May, with a 6-5 record in Big South play in 2010. The Flames reached the Big South Baseball Championship title game for the third consecutive year.
Liberty is 168-127-3 (.569) all-time, including Big South Championship appearances and three NCAA Regional appearances, during May. Liberty has gone 124-94-3 (.566) in regular-season games during the month.
Home Sweet Home
For the past 32 years, the Flames have called Worthington Stadium home. It is named for program architect and the first Liberty head baseball coach, Al Worthington. Liberty has compiled an impressive 542-243-5 record at the stadium for a winning percentage of .689 since the facility's inception in 1979.
The Flames are 18-5 on the year at Worthington Stadium. Liberty posted a 20-9 record at home in 2010. The Flames are 68-29-1 at home under fourth-year head coach Jim Toman's guidance.
A Shout Out to the Seniors
Saturday, nine members of the Liberty roster will be recognized, as the group plays in their final game in a Liberty uniform at Worthington Stadium.
This group includes - outfielder Doug Bream, catcher Jeff Jefferson, infielder Austin Taylor and pitchers Brian Cole, Steven Evans, J.J. McLeod, Keegan Linza and Mark Swanson.
Scoring First = Wins
Posting the first run of a contest has been a key indicator of Liberty's success this season. The Flames are 21-6 when scoring first in a contest. Meanwhile, Liberty is 11-15 when its opponents plate the first run of the game.
Weekend Trio Getting It Done
Entering this weekend, Liberty pitchers John Niggli, Steven Evans and Keegan Linza have established themselves as a trio to reckon with. The three weekend starters for the Flames have combined to post a 19-6 record with a 2.81 ERA over 250 1/3 innings in 36 starts, so far this season. They have also combined for nine complete games, with Linza going the full nine innings four times this year and Evans three.
Linza is among the Big South leaders in several categories. The senior right-hander leads the conference with nine wins and 90 innings pitched. He is fourth in the league with a 2.23 ERA.
Evans and Niggli also have their names on several of the Big South lists. Niggli is 10th in opponent batting average (.249) and ERA (3.21). Evans is second in innings pitched (881/3) and third in strikeouts (74) . He also ranks fourth in the Big South in opponent batting average (.223).
Williams Moves Up on Career 2Bs List
Shortstop Matt Williams continues to climb the school's Top 10 career doubles list. With 15 doubles on the year, Williams now has 49 two-base hits in his career, tying former Liberty standout Jason Benham (1995-98) for sixth place on the all-time list.
Former Liberty outfielder Phillip Laurent (2003-06) holds the school career record for two-base hits with 68. He also set the single-season record with 27 in 2006.
Williams' Liberty teammate Tyler Bream has also moved into the Top 10 career doubles list this season. With 46 two-base hits, the Flames third baseman ranks eighth on the school's career list. Bream is tied with former Liberty catcher David Benham (1995-98) and second baseman Michael Just (2003-06).
Evans Continues to Climb Up Career Lists
For the second straight outing, Liberty senior Steven Evans went the distance in a 6-4 victory over Gardner-Webb last Saturday. The win was the 25th of his career, moving him into second place on Liberty's all-time victory list. Former Flames standout Lee Guetterman (1978-81) is the program's career leader with 29 career wins.
In addition, with nine innings of work, Evans moved into third all-time at Liberty with 310 1/3 innings pitched. The left-hander sits behind former teammate Dustin Umberger, who pitched 317 2/3 innings from 2006-10. Guetterman also heads up that list with 334 2/3 innings pitched during his time at Liberty.
Earlier this season, Evans moved into second on the program's all-time strikeout ledger. Currently, the left-hander has 259 career strikeouts. Only Mike Brown (1994-97), Liberty's career strikeout leader with 287, has compiled more. Evans is currently third in the Big South with 74 strikeouts this season.
A fixture of the Flames' pitching staff over the past four years, Evans has a 25-10 record, four saves and a 3.48 ERA during his career. The left-hander has walked 96 batters for a 2.70 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio during his career.