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No. 3 Seed Liberty Downs No. 6 Seed UNC Asheville, 9-2
Catcher Trey Wimmer drove in four runs to back another strong outing by right-hander John Niggli, leading the No. 3 seed Liberty Flames past the No. 6 seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 9-2, Tuesday in Game 3 of the 2012 Big South Championship at Coy O. Willard Stadium.
Niggli, Liberty's starting pitcher, cruised through the first five innings on the way to running his record to 9-3 on the year. After the 2012 Big South All-Conference first teamer gave up a single to the leadoff hitter in the second inning, he retired 10 straight batters until a double in the fifth by Bulldog catcher Ian Graham. The senior right-hander allowed one run on six hits during seven innings. He struck out four batters and walked two.
Meanwhile, Wimmer had a season-high four RBIs in the contest. The catcher had two hits, including a double, before departing for a pinch runner in the bottom of the seventh.
The Flames move to 39-19 and advance in Bracket Two play to face the winner of tonight's game between No. 7 seed High Point and No. 2 seed Campbell, tomorrow evening in Game 8 of the Big South Championship. First pitch is scheduled for 45 minutes after the conclusion of Game 7. UNC Asheville drops to 25-29 and will meet the loser of High Point-Campbell tomorrow in Game 6 of the Big South Championship.
Liberty, the home team on the scoreboard, staked itself to a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Second baseman Bryan Aanderud reached on an error by Bulldog third baseman Cody Buch to open the frame and stole second base. The next batter, designated hitter Tyler Cox, also singled to move Aanderud to third base. After Cox stole second to put two Flames in scoring position, catcher Wimmer dropped a single into center field to plate both runners to give Liberty an advantage.
In the third inning, first baseman Alex Close hit his 13th home run of the season, breaking the Liberty school freshman record of 12 set by Pat Sipe in 1983 and tying the Big South freshman record with four other players. After right fielder Michael Robertson lined a one-out single, Close slammed an offering from Asheville starter Dean Roland out over the center field wall for a 4-0 Liberty lead.
The Flames extended their advantage with a run in the fifth. With one out, third baseman Dalton Sype singled through the left side of the infield and advanced to second base on a wild pitch by Roland. After moving to third on an infield single by shortstop Zack Haley, left fielder Ian Parmley brought home Sype with a bunt single for a 5-0 lead.
The Bulldogs broke through against Niggli in the seventh. With two out, Graham doubled and moved to third base on a wild pitch. After a walk to first baseman Hunter Bryant, second baseman Eli Miller singled, scoring Graham to make it, 5-1.
In the bottom of the inning, Liberty answered with four runs to take a commanding lead. Robertson walked to open the Flames' half of the frame and stole second base. After moving to third base on a single by Aanderud, Robertson came home on a single by Cox. Wimmer followed by plating both runners with a double into the right-center field gap, upping the Flames' advantage to 8-1. The next batter, Sype, dumped a RBI single into left field to give Liberty a 9-1 lead.
UNC Asheville scored a run in the top of the ninth for the final margin of 9-2.
Roland falls to 5-6 for the Bulldogs. The right-hander allowed five runs on nine hits over five innings. He struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Liberty collected 15 hits in the contest, the most by the Flames in a Big South Championship game since posting 20 in a 20-10 victory over High Point on May 21, 2009 at McCormick Field in Asheville, N.C.
Sype had three hits in the game to lead all players. It is the fifth time this season the Liberty third base has had three or more hits in a contest.
UNC Asheville recorded seven hits, with Graham collecting two doubles for the Bulldogs.