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Liberty Softball to Begin Big South Title Defense on Thursday
Complete Tournament Notes
Big South Tournament Central
Reigning Big South softball champion Liberty enters the 2012 Big South Softball Championship as the No. 6 seed. The Lady Flames (19-34, 9-12 Big South) begin their title defense against No. 3 seed Charleston Southern (30-24, 12-9 Big South) on Thursday at 2 p.m. at RU Softball Field in Radford, Va.
The winner of Thursday's game between Liberty and Charleston Southern will face the winner of No. 2 Coastal Carolina and No. 7 Presbyterian College, Friday at 9 a.m. The losers of those two first-round contests will meet in an elimination game at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Liberty holds a 38-13 advantage all-time against the Buccaneers, including 6-1 in conference tournament play. The Lady Flames eliminated CSU to advance to the final of the 2009 tournament in the teams' most recent postseason meeting. CSU won two out of three at Liberty Softball Field this season, its first series win in Lynchburg since 1995.
How to Follow the Lady Flames
Fans can follow all of Liberty's conference tournament games through Gametracker, provided by the Liberty Athletics Communications office. Each Lady Flames contest will also be broadcast on 90.9 FM The Light, with Nick Pierce calling the action. A live video stream will be available for all games, for a nominal fee, through the Big South Network. Sunday's championship final will be broadcast live nationally on ESPNU.
- Liberty is the defending Big South champion, posting a 30-30 record in 2011.
- Sammi Shivock and Meredith Crisante were both named to 2011 All-Tournament Team.
- The Lady Flames hit three homers in 14-6 win over Longwood in regular-season finale.
- Kelby Allen hit two home runs, and Bridgett Woods had a grand slam, Saturday.
- Liberty is 36-33 all-time in Big South Softball Championship play, winning the title in 2002 and 2011 and placing second in 1998, 2000, 2008 and 2009.
- The Lady Flames have competed in conference final three out of the last four seasons.
Liberty vs. Charleston Southern
Series: Liberty leads, 38-13
Current Streak: Liberty W1
Last Meeting: Liberty 9, Charleston Southern 8 (8 inn.) (4/7/12 in Lynchburg)
Last Charleston Southern Win: Charleston Southern 8, Liberty 5 (4/6/12 in Lynchburg)
Series in Radford: Liberty leads, 1-0 (W, 3-1 - 5/9/09 in Big South semifinal)
Charleston Southern (30-24, 12-9 Big South) earned the No. 3 seed with a ninth-inning, come-from-behind 4-3 win over Radford on the season's final day. The Buccaneers have the second-best team ERA in the Big South, at 2.49. Linzy Rother leads the team with a .292 average, while Stephanie Sbardella and Megan Lombard both have five homers. Morgan Dowdy is 17-12 with a 2.01 ERA and 145 strikeouts.
The Lady Flames hold a 38-13 record over the Buccaneers, including 6-1 in conference tournament play. Charleston Southern went 2-1 against Liberty this season, winning both games on April 6 before the Lady Flames claimed a thrilling, 9-8 win in eight innings over the Buccaneers on April 7.
Liberty Head Coach: Paul Wetmore
Record at Liberty (Seasons): 527-578-1 (19)
Record vs. Charleston Southern: 38-13
Charleston Southern Head Coach: Shane Winkler
Record at Charleston Southern (Seasons): 111-118-1 (4)
Record vs. Liberty: 4-9
Liberty trailed Charleston Southern, 7-3, during the sixth inning on April 7, before Kelly Strickland tied it with a grand slam. The Buccaneers went ahead by one, 8-7, in the top of the seventh, and Hanna Nichols tied it with a two-out double in the bottom of the frame. Jenny Law won the game with a two-out walk-off single in the eighth.
Last Meeting in Big South Championship
The Lady Flames defeated Charleston Southern, 3-1, on May 9, 2009 in Radford, Va., to advance to the Big South Softball Championship final. CSU struck first on a Brittany York homer in the second inning. Beth Bennett tied it with an RBI double in the fifth, and Keely McMillon followed with a two-run homer. With the win, Liberty earned its fifth appearance in the conference final, and second in a row.
Out With a Bang
The Lady Flames sent their seniors out in style with a 14-6 win over Longwood on Senior Day, Saturday. Liberty hit three home runs, with senior Bridgett Woods connecting for a grand slam and freshman Kelby Allen hitting two homers and driving in four runs. Grace Nordan pitched the first three innings to earn her first career victory.
Four out of the five seniors registered at least one hit in their last game at Liberty Softball Field.
Prior to Saturday, no Lady Flame had done the following during a regular-season finale: hit a grand slam; hit two homers; or earned their first career pitching victory. All three were attained against Longwood, by Woods, Allen and Nordan, respectively.
Last season, the Lady Flames hit 61 home runs in 60 games, averaging slightly over one homer per game.
Liberty has surged during the second half this year, hitting 27 homers in the last 26 games of the regular season to give the Lady Flames 43 round trippers in 2012. Meredith Crisante has hit seven of her team-high nine homers in the second half. During the past 10 games, the Lady Flames have hit 13 home runs.
Turn of Fortune
Sophomore Grace Nordan started this season as the Lady Flames' leadoff batter, getting Liberty's first hit of the year on Feb. 10 at Elon. She has had other highlights at the plate, including a go-ahead two-run single at Coastal Carolina, April 15.
Nordan had pitched 9 1/3 innings, mostly in relief, over the past two seasons, prior to last week, where she went 9 1/3 innings over two starts in the circle. She tossed a complete game in a 4-3 setback at Virginia Tech on May 1, and was the starting pitcher in the regular-season finale, a 14-6 win over Longwood.
Meredith Crisante, Jenny Law and Kaylee West have all started every game this year.
Law has made 177 consecutive starts, dating back to May 7, 2009. Kelly Strickland started 170 games in a row before missing the USC Upstate Tournament. West has drawn starting assignments for each of the last 170 games, beginning with the 2010 season opener.
Two Lady Flames since 1994 have made more than 175 starts in a row. Beth Bennett started all 248 games of her career, while Lauren Hahn made 237 consecutive starts.
On April 7 against Charleston Southern, Kelly Strickland's name appeared in the starting lineup for the 200th time. She is the 12th Lady Flame since 1994 to make 200 career starts. Kaylee West then made her 200th career start on April 10 against North Carolina A&T. Jenny Law's 200th start came on May 1 at Virginia Tech.
This is the first year that three Lady Flames have made their 200th career start during the same season.
Amber Donovan hit her team-leading 10th double of the season, April 20 at Presbyterian College. She is the first Lady Flame to hit 10 or more doubles as a freshman since Ashley Williams had 11 in 2005.
Chandler Ball struck out eight Presbyterian College batters on April 21, and now has 109 strikeouts this season. She is the first Liberty freshman pitcher with 100 or more strikeouts since Sarah Swor in 2004.
Kelly Strickland recorded her 149th career RBI on a squeeze play during Liberty's 4-3 setback at Virginia Tech on May 1. She is now tied for second place in program history with Shannon Tanski (1995-97).
Kaylee West is in eighth place, at 94 RBIs, while Jenny Law is now tied for 10th in program history, with 88 RBIs. Meredith Crisante is not far behind, having driven in 86 runs while at Liberty.
The Lady Flames finished with a 9-12 record in Big South play this season, and exhibited extra-base power throughout the conference schedule. Liberty hit 28 doubles and added 20 homers and one triple during conference play, meaning one-third of the team's 147 hits during Big South games went for extra bases.
Liberty went 6-5 in conference away games this season, sweeping Gardner-Webb and taking two of three at Presbyterian College. Over the past two seasons, the Lady Flames are 13-8 in Big South road contests.
Sammi Shivock batted .367 with four doubles, four homers, 16 RBIs and 13 runs scored in league games. Meredith Crisante hit .294 in conference play, with a .647 slugging percentage, as she hit six doubles and six homers while driving in 18 runs. Jenny Law hit .318 against conference competition, and Kelly Strickland hit three homers.