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Liberty Edged in Ninth by Winthrop, 6-5
A sacrifice fly in the ninth inning gave the Winthrop Eagles a 6-5 win over the Liberty Flames in a Big South Conference contest, Saturday at Winthrop Ballpark.
Liberty, which took the opening game of the series, 7-0, on Friday night, drops to 8-3 in the Big South and 29-9 overall. Winthrop improves to 5-6 in conference play and 12-24 overall, halting a three-game losing streak.
Host Winthrop opened the scoring with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Shortstop Jason Driver began the frame with a double into the right-center field gap and moved to third base on a bunt by right fielder Justin Hopper. Driver then plated the game's first run on a wild pitch by Liberty starting pitcher Patrick Eckelbarger.
Liberty answered with a run in the top of the second. With one out, center fielder Ryan Cordell and right fielder Justin Sizemore reached on back-to-back singles. Third baseman Dalton Sype followed with the third-straight single, scoring Cordell to tie the game, 1-1.
The Eagles went back in front in the third with three runs. With one out and two runners aboard, left fielder Patrick Gamblin lined a run-scoring double into the left field corner to take a 2-1 edge. First baseman Matt Lobacz followed with a ground out to bring home the second run of the frame, upping the Winthrop lead to 3-1. T.J.Olesczuk then singled to give the Eagles a 4-1 lead.
Liberty responded in its next at bat, plating four runs to erase the Winthrop advantage and go on top of the scoreboard for the first time on the afternoon. With the bases loaded and one out, left fielder Ian Parmley ripped a double to the wall in right field, scoring two runs, trimming the Flames' deficit to one run at 4-3. Shortstop Zack Haley then dropped a RBI single into left field to tie the game, and when he got caught in a rundown between first and second, Parmley raced home for a 5-4 Liberty edge.
In the bottom of the sixth, Winthrop tied the contest for the third time on the afternoon, but was denied a chance for more. Back-to-back singles by third baseman Leighton Daniels and catcher Tyler Donvan put Eagles on the corners with one out against Liberty reliever Trey Lambert. Driver followed with a single to score Daniels, knotting the contest at 5-5.
Winthrop then loaded the bases on an infield single by Hopper. With an outstanding defensive play, Liberty's Haley kept the single from leaving the infield, preventing the runner from scoring. The Flames summoned right-hander Matt Marsh from the bullpen and the reliever ended the threat by striking out the next two hitters to prevent the Eagles from taking a lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Lobacz and Olesczuk singled to open the inning for Winthrop. After a sacrifice bunt moved the game-winning run to third base, pinch hitter Max Vogel lifted a fly ball to deep right field to deliver the runner from third and give the Eagles the victory.
Marsh falls to 0-1 on the year for the Flames. The third of four pitchers in the contest for Liberty, Marsh gave up one run on two hits during 2 2/3 innings of relief. He struck out three batters and walked one.
Winthrop pitcher Austin Stuart moves to 2-1 on the season. The third pitcher of the afternoon for the Eagles, Stuart pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out one batter.
Liberty collected 14 hits in the game, with six Flames recording two apiece. Winthrop had 12 hits in the contest. Hopper led all hitters in the game with three hits. Both teams left 10 men each on base.
Liberty and Winthrop will meet in the final game of their weekend series tomorrow afternoon at the Winthrop Ballpark. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.