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Close, Smith Help Power Liberty Past High Point
Andy Smith hit a two-run home run and Alex Close drove in two runs with three hits, helping to push the Liberty Flames past the High Point Panthers, 6-3, Saturday on Senior Night at Worthington Stadium.
With the Flames trailing 3-1 and a runner aboard in the fifth, Smith lined his seventh home run of the season over the right field wall, tying the game at 3-3. Meanwhile, Close posted his sixth three-hit game of the season. The first baseman drove in two runs with a single in the seventh and scored a run in the game.
Liberty moves to 12-8 in Big South play and 36-15 overall. The Flames have won three straight contests. High Point drops to 8-12 in conference play and 23-27 overall.
Host Liberty took a 1-0 advantage in the game's opening inning. Left fielder Ian Parmley began the frame by lining a double down the right field line. After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by center fielder Smith, Parmley scored the first run of the contest on a ground out by designated hitter Tyler Cox.
High Point countered with two runs in the top of the second. With runners on second and third with one out, right fielder Devin Bujnovsky singled through the left side to tie the game at 1-1. Later in the inning, left fielder Sean Williams dropped a two-out, run-scoring single into left field to give the Panthers a 2-1 advantage.
High Point stretched its lead with a run in the third. With one out, third baseman Ryne Rush hit his second home run of the year, upping the Panther edge to 3-1.
Liberty tied the game in the fifth on Smith's home run. With shortstop Zack Haley aboard, Smith homered on a 1-2 pitch to knot the contest at 3-3.
In the sixth, the Flames went back in front. Close opened the inning with a double off the top of the right field wall and advanced to third base on a wild pitch by High Point reliever Joe Goodman. Three batters later, third baseman Dalton Sype plated Close with a squeeze bunt for a 4-3 advantage.
Liberty extended its lead in the seventh. With runners at second and third and two out, Close lined a single to left field, scoring both runners for what proved to be the final score of 6-3.
Liberty reliever Jared Lyons entered the contest with one out in the fifth and shut down the Panthers to move to 2-3 on the year. The left-hander pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits. He struck out two and did not walk a batter. Jacob Kemmerer pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his third save of the season.
High Point starter Jared Avidon falls to 1-5 on the year. He gave up four runs on five hits over five innings. He struck out two and walked two batters.
Liberty collected eight hits in the contest. Besides Close's three hits, Parmley added two for the Flames. High Point had nine hits in the game.
Liberty left eight runners on base in the contest, while High Point stranded 12 base runners.
Before the contest, Flames seniors Patrick Eckelbarger, John Niggli, Michael Robertson, Haley, Kemmerer and Parmley were recognized. The six are playing in their last home games in a Liberty uniform this weekend.
High Point and Liberty will meet again tomorrow at 2 p.m. The contest will be the last baseball game at Worthington Stadium. The Flames are slated to move to a new facility next season.