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No. 2 Seed Liberty Opens Big South Championship Wednesday
The No. 2 seed Liberty Flames (33-22, 18-9 Big South) travel to Lexington, Va., Wednesday to open play in the 2011 Big South Baseball Championship at Gray-Minor Stadium. Liberty is the No. 2 seed for the third time in four years.
The Flames will square off Wednesday afternoon against the highest remaining seed from Tuesday's contests between the No. 5-8 seeds. Liberty will draw either No. 5 seed Gardner-Webb or the winner of the No. 6 Radford and tournament host and No. 7 seed VMI. First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 3 p.m.
The remainder of the double-elimination tournament will continue Thursday through Saturday. The conference champion is scheduled to be crowned Saturday, in Game 12 or Game 13 (if necessary). The Big South Baseball Champion claims the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Baseball Regionals.
Last Time Out
Liberty senior Keegan Linza became only the fourth pitcher in program history to win 10 games in a season, as the Flames downed the Radford Highlanders, 2-1, Saturday on Senior Day at Worthington Stadium.
Linza gave up one run on six hits over six-plus innings to run his record to 10-3. Reliever Garrett Baker earned his third save of the year, with three scoreless innings of relief.
The only scoring in the contest came in the first inning, with Liberty scoring on RBI singles by right fielder Michael Robertson and third baseman Tyler Bream.
Following the Flames
Each Liberty contest during the 2011 Big South Baseball Championship may be heard LIVE on WWMC 90.9 "The Light" FM or online at LibertyFlames.com. Nick Pierce will handle play-by-play duties and former Flames pitcher Doug Wallace will provide commentary for the games.
In addtion, all games will be video streamed live on the Big South Network. Tournament games will be available daily via the $6.95 Day Pass -- which covers all games played that respective day -- or the $19.95 Full Championship Pass, which features the tournament in its entirety. A link to the video stream will also be available at LibertyFlames.com.
Real-time "Live Stats" will be available on the Big South, VMI and LibertyFlames.com website free of charge.
Flames At the Big South Baseball Championship
This year's appearance marks Liberty's 15th at the Big South Baseball Championship. The Flames enter the 2011 championship having compiled a 42-24 overall record in previous tournament appearances. For the third time in four years, Liberty is the No. 2 seed for the championship. The Flames have been the runner-up four out of the last five years.
Liberty earned the No. 2 seed at the championship last season. For the fourth time in five years, the Flames reached the title game, falling to No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina, 8-2.
The Flames have been the fourth seed the most often in their previous touranment appearances. In their previous 14 championship appearances, the Flames have been the top seed twice (2000, 1998), the No. 2 seed twice (2010, 2008), the No. 3 seed three times (2008, 2007, 2001), the No. 4 seed four times (2005, 2002, 1999, 1997), the No. 5 seed once (2006), and the No. 6 seed twice (2003, 1993).
Tourney Under Toman
In their first three seasons under head coach Jim Toman, the Flames have reached the Big South title game twice. In each season, 2008 and 2010, Liberty finished as the runner-up, falling as the No. 2 seed each time to No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina.
Liberty has posted a 9-6 record in the Big South Championship during Toman's tenure. The Flames have been the No. 2 seed twice (2008 & 2010) and the No. 3 seed once (2009) during the Toman's three seasons.
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 Big South Baseball Championship with an 9-3 record in the month of May. The Flames finished their regular-season schedule during the month with 12 scheduled games. Nine of the 12 were 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 time in four years.
Liberty is 169-129-3 (.566) all-time, including Big South Championship appearances and three NCAA Regional appearances, during May. Liberty has gone 125-96-3 (.565) in regular-season games during the month.
A Shout Out to the Seniors
Last Saturday, nine members of the Liberty roster were recognized, as the group played in their final game in a Liberty uniform at Worthington Stadium.
This group included - outfielder Doug Bream, catcher Jeff Jefferson, infielder Austin Taylor and pitchers Brian Cole, Steven Evans, J.J. McLeod, Keegan Linza and Mark Swanson.
Liberty enters the weekend with an 11-6 record in one-run games. After posting a 4-5 record in one-runs games early in the season, the Flames have won seven out of their last eight one-run contests.
Burning Up the Base Paths
The Flames enter this week with 111 stolen bases, the most by a Liberty team since 2002, when the Flames stole 111 bases in 59 games. Liberty's 111 stolen bases leads the Big South Conference in the category. The Flames were ranked sixth in the nation in the latest NCAA Division I statistical report, for games played through May 8.
Liberty has taken advantage of its team speed, nearly doubling its stolen base total from a year ago. The Flames have stolen 111 bases in 142 attempts this season, compared to 2010, when the Flames swiped 57 stolen bases in 80 attempts over 61 games.
Leading the way for the Flames is center fielder Ian Parmley with 25 stolen bases. The Liberty outfielder is third in the Big South and 29th nationally in the category. Parmley's 25 steals are the most by a Liberty player since 2004, when outfielder Jeremiah Boles had 31 stolen bases.
In addition, Parmley has moved into a tie for ninth on the program's single season list with former Liberty shortstop Joey Monahan, who had 25 in 2002. Gary Wagner holds the school record with 46 stolen bases in 1983.
The Flames' stolen base totals are definitely a stark contrast from last season. Not only has Liberty surpassed last year's season total, but individually four Flames have more steals than outfielder Curran Redal, who led the 2010 team with a season total of 13 stolen bases. Joining Parmley is catcher Casey Rasmus, who has 18 stolen bases this season despite playing in 44 games. Rasmus is sixth in the conference in the category. Outfielder Michael Robertson and shortstop Matt Williams have also reached double-digit totals. Robertson is tied for seventh in the conference with 17 stolen bases, while Williams has 15 steals.
Linza One of Four
Senior right-hander Keegan Linza enters the week in the company of only three other Flames pitchers in the 38-year history of the program. With 10 wins on the year, Linza has matched the single-season win totals of former Liberty standouts, Shawn Teufel and Lee Guetterman. The victory total is second on the school's all-time single season list. Teufel won 10 games in 2010, while Guetterman recorded 10 wins in a season in both the 1980 & 1981. Jason Jones holds the Liberty mark for wins in a year with 11 victories in 2002.
Linza leads the Big South in wins and in innings pitched with 99.0. He is second in the conference with a 2.18 ERA. This season, he became the first Liberty pitcher to throw four complete games in a campaign since Michael Solbach went the distance five times in 2005. Not only is his win total a single-season career high, but he has set personal single-season highs for innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts (60).
Baker Has Been Big
In his first season in a Liberty uniform, pitcher Garrett Baker has established himself as the workhorse of the Flames' relief corps.
The junior left-hander has made a team-leading 24 appearances, posting a 6-4 record with three saves and a 2.81 ERA in 57 2/3 innings. Of his 24 appearances, three have been starts. His ERA ranks fifth and is fourth with a .229 opponent batting average in the Big South.
In addition, Baker has struck out 43 and walked only seven batters. Of his seven walks, five were intentional free passes. He leads the conference in walks allowed and is yielding 1.09 walks per nine innings. He was ninth nationally in last week's NCAA Division I statistical report.
Over the last five conference weekends, Baker has been summoned from the Liberty bullpen in 12 of the 18 games, recording a 3-1 record and three saves with a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. He has struck out 19 batters and walked four, holding opponents to a .183 batting average over the stretch. Of his four walks during the span, three were intentional. For the year, Baker has allowed eight of 27 inherited runners to score.
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
Liberty senior Steven Evans continues to move up several of the school's career list in his final days in a Flames uniform. The left-hander will enter the week with 25 wins in his his career, placing him second 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, Evans ranks third all-time at Liberty with 316 1/3 innings pitched. The left-hander sits 1 1/3 innings 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 265 career strikeouts. Only Mike Brown (1994-97), Liberty's career strikeout leader with 287, has compiled more.
Evans is currently second in the Big South with 94 1/3 innings pitch and an opponent batting average of .217. He is also third in the conference with 80 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 3.41 ERA during his career. The left-hander has walked 98 batters for a 2.80 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio during his career.