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Asheville Edges Liberty, 7-6, in 13 Innings
Center fielder Thomas Bess scored on a wild pitch in the 13th inning, pushing the UNC Asheville Bulldogs past the Liberty Flames, 7-6, Friday afternoon in a Big South Conference baseball contest at Greenwood Field.
Trailing 5-3 in the top of the ninth, Liberty plated three runs in the top of the ninth to take a 6-5 lead, only to see Asheville counter with a run of its own to send the game to extra innings.
Liberty drops to 31-11 overall and 9-4 in Big South play. UNC Asheville moves to 18-21 overall and 7-9 in conference action. The game was the longest for the Flames, both in terms of innings and time (4:03) this season.
Liberty jumped onto the scoreboard in its opening at bat of the contest, striking with two outs. Second baseman Bryan Aanderud drew a one-out walk and scored when designated hitter Tyler Cox ripped a double off the top of the right field wall for a 1-0 edge.
UNC Asheville batted around in the third inning, plating four runs in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, second baseman Eli Miller and shortstop Jordan Lurie walked. Bess followed with a bad-hop triple down the right field line, putting the Bulldogs in front, 2-1. After a ground ball by next Patrick Koontz brought home Bess to up Asheville's new-found advantage to 3-1, the Bulldogs strung together three singles, the final one by catcher Ian Graham for a 4-1 lead.
After Asheville left runners on the corners in the fourth, Liberty cut into the Bulldog lead with a run in the fifth. With one out, Aanderud reached on an infield single and advanced to third base on a double lined inside the third base bag by Cox. First baseman Alex Close followed with a run-scoring ground out, trimming Asheville's edge to 4-2.
Liberty closed its deficit to one run in the top of the sixth. With catcher Trey Wimmer at third base and two out, Bulldog reliever Dillion Tabar overthrew first base on a ball topped in front of home plate by left fielder Ian Parmley, allowing Wimmer to score, whittling the Bulldog advantage to 4-3.
In the bottom of the inning, Asheville extended its lead. With third baseman Cody Buch on second, strike three to shortstop Jordan Lurie by Flames reliever Blake Forslund got by Wimmer. When he could not find the passed ball, Buch scored for a 5-3 host advantage.
Rallying against Bulldog reliever Ethan Stieble, Liberty took its second lead of the contest in the top of the ninth. Aanderud led off the top of the inning with a single and moved to second on a ground out by Cox. Close followed with a single to left field, scoring Aanderud to cut UNC Asheville's lead to 5-4. Two batters later, pinch hitter Danny Grauer walked to move pinch runner Josh Richardson into scoring position at second base. Third baseman Dalton Sype tied the game at 5-5, with a two-out single through the left side of the infield, plating Richardson. With two strikes, shortstop Zack Haley ripped a single past the third baseman and into left, putting the Flames in front, 6-5.
In the bottom of the inning, the Bulldogs answered with a run to send the game to extra frames. Lurie walked and moved to second base on a bunt by Bess. Pinch hitter Robert McIntosh followed with a single, knotting the game again, this time at 6-6.
Each team left a runner at third base in the 11th. Liberty advanced Grauer, who singled, to third base with two outs in the top of the inning. However, reliever Elliot Criss retired the next Flame, Sype, on a line out to first. In the bottom of the inning, Bess singled with one out and later moved to third base. But Liberty summoned Jacob Kemmerer from the bullpen and the right-hander proceeded to retire the next two batters to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 13th, Bess reached on a fielder's choice and advance to second on an errant throw into the Bulldog dugout by Haley. With two outs, Bess moved to third and scored the winning run on wild pitches by Kemmerer with Adkins at the plate.
Kemmerer falls to 3-3 on the year. The fifth Liberty pitcher in the game, the right-hander allowed one run on one hit during 2 1/3 innings. He struck out one batter.
Criss improves to 2-2 on the season. The Asheville right-hander pitched four scoreless innings of relief, yielding one hit. The fourth Bulldog pitcher in the contest, he struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Liberty had 12 hits in the game, with Cox pacing the Flames with three. Asheville collected 14 hits in the contest. Bess led all hitters in the game with four hits. The Bulldog center fielder was a home run short of the cycle, recording a single, double and triple in the game. Lurie added three hits for the Bulldogs.
Liberty and UNC Asheville will meet again in the middle contest of the three-game series, tomorrow afternoon at Greenwood Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.