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Liberty Powers Past UNC Asheville, 16-6
Dalton Sype and Alex Close each hit home runs, as the Liberty Flames used a six-run seventh inning to pull away from the UNC Asheville Bulldogs in a 16-6 victory, Sunday afternoon in a Big South Conference contest at Greenwood Field.
Close had two hits, including his round tripper, and drove in a game-high four runs for the Flames. Right fielder Justin Sizemore added three hits and three runs for the Flames.
Liberty moves to 10-5 in Big South play and 32-12 overall. Liberty's 16 runs were the most in a game for the Flames this season. UNC Asheville falls to 8-10 in conference and 19-22 overall.
Liberty opened the game with two runs in the first inning. Left fielder Ian Parmley beat out an infield single and stole second to begin the game. The next batter, center fielder Ryan Cordell, reached on a fielder's choice to put Flames at the corners and no one out. Second baseman Bryan Aanderud followed with a ground out to plate Parmley with the first run of the contest. Sizemore then brought home Cordell with a single to left field, putting Liberty in front, 2-0.
UNC Asheville scored three runs in the second to stake itself to a 3-2 advantage. Designated hitter Billy Creighton began the bottom half of the inning with his fifth home run of the season to get the Bulldogs on the scoreboard. Catcher Ian Graham walked and moved to second on a fielder's choice grounder by left fielder Cody Adkins. Two batters later, shortstop Jordan Lurie grounded into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded, plating Graham and tying the game at 2-2. Center fielder Thomas Bess followed with a run-scoring single, giving the Bulldogs a short-lived, 3-2.
Both teams tallied runs in the third. Liberty sent 10 men to the plate in the top of the inning, scoring four runs to take back the lead. The first three batters of the frame reached, as walks to Aanderud and designated hitter Cox sandwiched a single back through the middle by Sizemore. The first two Flames runs in the inning came home, when third baseman Cody Buch misplayed a grounder by Close. Two batters later, Dalton Sype drove in Cox with a single for a 5-3 edge. Later, Close scored on a fly out by Parmley for a 6-3 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, the Bulldogs countered with two runs to close to within one run at 6-5. With two outs, Graham walked. Adkins followed with his second home run of the year over the right field fence, trimming the Liberty advantage.
Asheville tied the contest with a run in the fourth. With one out, Laurie walked and moved to second on a single by Bess. Right fielder Patrick Koontz followed with a single, scoring Laurie to knot the game at 6-6.
Liberty answered in the fifth. Sype led off the inning by blasting his first home run as a Flame over the left field wall, putting Liberty back in front, 7-6.
The Flames erupted for six more runs in the top of the seventh. Four of the runs came with two outs. Close started the uprising by blasting his team-leading seventh home run over the center field wall to open the frame and extend the Liberty lead to 8-6.
Later in the inning, shortstop Josh Richardson singled with two out and seemed to be picked off by Bulldog reliever Adam Spracklin. But, the throw from first baseman Hunter Bryant was dropped by Laurie at second, allowing Richardson reach safely. Parmley followed with a single to cash in Richardson for a 9-6 advantage. After a single by Cordell and a walk to Aanderud to load the bases, Sizemore ripped a single back through the middle of the diamond, scoring two more Flames for an 11-6 lead. Close then capped the uprising with a two-run single, stretching the Liberty lead to 13-6.
The Flames pushed their advantage to 16-6 in the eighth. Aanderud drove in two runs with a single, and Liberty tallied another run on a wild pitch by Asheville reliever Creighton.
The second of three Liberty pitchers in the contest, reliever Blake Forslund evens his record at 2-2. The right-hander allowed one run on two hits in one inning of work. He struck out one and walked one. Jacob Kemmerer pitched five scoreless innings to earn his second save of the year. The right-hander yielded two hits, striking out one and walking one batter.
Spracklin drops to 1-4. The fifth Bulldog reliever in the contest, Spracklin gave up five runs on five hits. He struck out one and walked one batter. Asheville pitchers gave up 11 free passes in the game.
Liberty collected 13 hits in the contest. UNC Asheville had 10 hits in the game.
The Flames will now complete a nine-game road trip on Tuesday. Liberty will travel to Harrisonburg, Va., for their third and final meeting of the season with the James Madison Dukes. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.