The No. 2 seed Liberty Flames raced out to a 4-0 advantage and then held off a charge by the No. 6 seed Stetson Hatters for a 4-3 victory to capture the 2019 ASUN Baseball Championship, Sunday at Melching Field at Conrad Park.
The Flames, who defeated the Hatters 6-3 yesterday to force a winner-take-all game today, scored four runs in the second inning, before Stetson took advantage of two errors in the seventh to cut their lead to 4-3. In the ninth, the Hatters moved the tying run to third base with two out, but Liberty closer Evan Brabrand retired the next batter to seal the win.
Liberty starter and ASUN All-Tournament team member Andrew McInvale pitched six scoreless innings to record the victory.
All-Tournament outfielder Gray Betts had two hits and drove in two runs for the Flames, while third baseman Tyler Galazin collected two hits and scored a run.
Liberty moves to 42-19 and receives the conference's automatic bid to a 2019 NCAA Regional. Stetson finishes the season with a 27-32 record.
Box Score Highlights Records: Stetson (27-32); Liberty (42-19) Location: DeLand, Fla. (Melching Field at Conrad Park) Attendance: 420 WP: Andrew McInvale (10-2) | LP: Vlad Nuenz (2-3) | SV: Evan Brabrand (13)
Scoring Summary LIBERTY – 2nd INNING – Highfill singles, Galazin and Wagner score, 2-0 LIBERTY – 2nd INNING – Betts singles, Highfill and Rohrer score, 4-0 STETSON – 7th INNING – Fielding error by left fielder, MacNeil and Cardieri score, 4-2 STETSON – 7th INNING – Fielding error by shortstop, Arenas scores, 4-3
Notable Numbers - Stetson outhit Liberty, 9-6, in the contest. The Flames committed two errors, both in the seventh inning.
- Liberty left six men on base, while Stetson left 11, including the tying run in the ninth.
- Galazin posts his team-leading 20th multi-hit game of the season. Meanwhile, Betts records his 10th multi-hit contest.
- McInvale scattered five hits over his six innings of work. He struck out four and walked three.
- Brabrand pitched the final three innings. He worked out of scoring threats in the seventh and the ninth. The reliever allowed three unearned runs on four hits. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
- Stetson's four pitchers in the contest walked seven batters, including three in Liberty's four-run second.
Turning Point Leading by one in the top of the ninth, Brabrand held off a Stetson rally to close out the victory. With two out and a runner on first, Hatters shortstop Jorge Arenas lined an 0-2 single into right field, advancing the tying run to third. With runners on the corners, Brabrand induced a ground ball from Stetson third baseman Kyle Ball to seal the win and Liberty's ASUN title.
Beyond the Box Score - Liberty catcher Jonathan Embry was named the 2019 ASUN Baseball Championship MVP. He was joined by teammates Betts, McInvale, shortstop Cam Locklear and outfielder Brandon Rohrer on the 2019 ASUN All-Tournament team.
- Liberty wins its first conference championship since 2013. The Flames won four conference crowns as a member of the Big South Conference (1993, 1998, 2000 and 2013)
- The Flames become the first team to capture the ASUN title in their first year in the conference since UCF did it in 1993.
- Liberty is the fifth No. 2 seed to win the ASUN Baseball Championship. Lipscomb was the last to do it in 2015.
- The Flames have won 42 or more games in a season twice in program history. The 2014 team set the school record with 43 wins.
- Liberty defeated Stetson four out of the five times the teams played this season.
- Embry hit .474 with two doubles and a home run during the ASUN Tournament. The 2019 ASUN Player of the Year collected five RBI and scored four times.
- Embry drew three walks in the contest to extend his reached base safely streak to 17 games. However, the catcher's consecutive game hitting streak comes to an end at a career-high 13 games. The streak is the longest by a Flame this season.
- With his 10th win of the season, McInvale becomes the sixth pitcher in program history to record 10 or more wins in a season. His win total is the second most in school history. Jason Jones (2002) and Keegan Linza (2011) each won 11 games for the Flames in a single season.
- Brabrand recorded his 13th save of the season to move into second on Liberty's single season save list. Josh Brey holds the program record with 16 in 2000.
- With two hits in the contest, Galazin has now reached base safely in 17 consecutive games. The senior has at least one hit in 15 of those contests.
Up Next Liberty will find out their regional destination on Monday, when the NCAA Regionals bracket is announced at Noon on ESPNU.