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Liberty Rallies for 4-3 Game One Win
Bryan Aanderud tied the game with a seventh inning home run and Zack Haley broke the tie with a sacrifice fly in the eighth, pushing the Liberty Flames past the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, 4-3, in the first game of a Big South doubleheader, Friday afternoon at Worthington Stadium.
Trailing 3-2 with two outs and no one aboard in the bottom of the seventh, Aanderud ripped his first home run of the season to deep center field, tying the contest at 3-3.
In the eighth, the Flames struck for the go-ahead run. Catcher Trey Wimmer opened the Liberty half of the inning sending a line drive into the right center field gap for his first career triple. Two batters later, Haley lifted a fly ball to left, plating Wimmer and putting Liberty on top, 4-3.
Liberty starter John Niggli walked the first batter in the top ninth, but then retired the next three Gardner-Webb batters to closed out the Flames victory and record his second complete game of the season.
With the win, Liberty moves to 4-0 in Big South play and 22-3 overall. Gardner-Webb drops to 0-1 in conference action and 14-9 overall.
The Flames took a 1-0 lead in the home half of the second inning. First baseman Alex Close and Wimmer opened the frame with back-to-back singles. Two batters later, Haley singled to load the bases with one out. Left fielder Ian Parmley followed with a sacrifice fly to score Close and give Liberty an early advantage.
The visiting Runnin' Bulldogs used one swing of the bat claim a lead that would last for three innings in the top of the third inning. Shortstop Ryan Hodge doubled to lead off the inning and two batters later, center field Benji Jackson was hit by a Niggli pitch. After getting the next hitter to fly out, catcher John Harris hit his third home run of the season over the right field wall, giving Gardner-Webb a 3-1 lead.
Liberty countered with a run in the bottom of the frame. The first three batters of the inning reached to load the bases and the Flames pushed across a run on a fielder's choice grounder by Close, trimming the Gardner-Webb advantage to 3-2. However, Bulldog starter Matt Fraudin prevented any further damage by retiring the next two Flames end the inning. Liberty stranded nine runners through the first four innings, leaving the bases load in three of the four frames.
Niggli went the distance for his second complete game of the year, running his record to 6-0 on the season. The senior gave up three runs on five hits in the contest. It is the first time this season that the right-hander has allowed more than two runs in an outing. He struck out two batters and walked one.
Fraudin did not figure in the decision for Gardner-Webb. He allowed two runs on six hits over five innings. He struck out one and walked three batters. Reliever Mitch Warner drops to 1-1 on the year. The left-hander gave up two runs on two hits during two innings of work. He struck out one and walked one.
Liberty had eight hits in the contest, while Gardner-Webb collected five.