A run-scoring single in the ninth inning by center fielder Aaron Stroosma snapped a 3-3 tie, sending the No. 24 Liberty Flames to a 4-3 win over the East Carolina Pirates, Sunday afternoon in Game 5 of the Keith LeClair Classic at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
With the score tied at 3-3, Liberty third baseman Clay Keranen was hit by a pitch, leading off the ninth. Pinch runner Tray Roberts then advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Nick Salisbury and moved to third base on an errant pickoff attempt by East Carolina pitcher Reed Love. With the Pirates infield in, Stroosma singled back through the middle of the diamond, putting Liberty in front, 4-3.
In the bottom of the ninth, East Carolina advanced a runner to third with two outs. However, pitcher Shawn Clowers was able to get second baseman Charlie Yorgen to ground out to first base to seal the Liberty victory.
Clowers improves to 2-0 on the year. The left-hander pitched the final four innings of the contest, giving up one run on two hits. He struck out three Pirates and walked one.
First baseman Andrew Yacyk collected three hits, one a home run. Designated hitter Becker Sankey also had three hits for the Flames.
Liberty evens its record at 3-3. East Carolina falls to 1-4.
Left fielder Luke Lowery staked the host Pirates to lead in the game's opening inning. With two outs and a runner aboard, Lowery lined his third home run over the left field wall for a 2-0 advantage.
The Flames answered with a round tripper of their own in the second. Leading off the inning, Yacyk belted his second home run of the year over the left field wall, quickly cutting the East Carolina lead to one at 2-1.
In the top of the third, the Flames threatened with two outs. Left fielder Josh Close and right fielder Will Shepherd reached on back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. However, Pirates starting pitcher Jacob Wolfe was able to get catcher Alex Close to bounce out to the shortstop to end the inning.
Both starting pitchers, Liberty's Parker Bean and East Carolina's Wolfe, settled in, becoming locked in a pitching duel. Bean retired nine batters after a Pirate reached on a Flames fielding error in the second inning. Wolfe allowed Liberty two baserunners through the next three innings.
Liberty knotted the contest in the sixth. With two outs, Alex Close and Yacyk each singled to left field. Sankey followed by lining a run-scoring single into right-center field to tie the game at 2-2.
Both teams exchanged runs in the seventh. The Flames took a short-lived lead in the top of the inning. Stroosma walked with two outs and stole second base. After moving to third on a passed ball, he scored on a wild pitch for a 3-2 edge.
East Carolina center fielder Garrett Brooks walked to open the home half of the seventh and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by designated hitter Jimmy Boyd. After Brooks advanced to third on a throwing error by Liberty shortstop Dalton Britt, a sacrifice bunt by Yorgen plated the runner, tying the game at 3-3.
Neither starting pitcher figured in the outcome. Bean pitched the first five innings for the Flames. The right-hander allowed two runs on three hits. He struck out five and walked two batters.
Wolfe went 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander gave up two runs, scattering seven hits. He struck out three and walked one. Love, the fourth East Carolina pitcher in the contest, falls to 0-1 on the year. He gave up one run on two hits. He struck out two batters.
Liberty is next scheduled to open its 2015 home schedule, Friday at Liberty Baseball Stadium. Game time is slated for 3 p.m.