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State Foes Ahead for Lady Flames This Week

April 14, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Keely McMillon and the Lady Flames will begin a stretch of 11-straight games against in-state foes this week with doubleheaders againts Longwood and No. 19 Virginia Tech.

Keely McMillon and the Lady Flames will begin a stretch of 11-straight games against in-state foes this week with doubleheaders againts Longwood and No. 19 Virginia Tech.

Live Stat link (all four games)

Following a weekend Big South series at Coastal Carolina, the Lady Flames return to the Commonwealth of Virginia for seven-straight in-state games this week.

Liberty will host Longwood for a non-conference doubleheader on Tuesday at the Liberty Softball Field (2/4 p.m.), while traveling to No. 19 Virginia Tech on Wednesday with two games in Blacksburg, Va. (3/5 p.m.)

The Lady Flames will return to Big South action over the weekend, playing a split series with arch rival Radford. The two squads will square off for two games in Radford, Va., on Saturday (1/3 p.m.), before returning to the Liberty Softball Field for the series finale on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Liberty (9-27-1, 3-3 Big South) is coming off a road trip where the Lady Flames dropped two out of three from Big South foe Coastal Carolina over the weekend. The two teams split a pair of pitcher's duels on Saturday.

The Chanticleers opened the day with a 3-2 victory, while Beth Bennett's solo home run in the sixth gave Liberty all the offense it would need in a second game 1-0 win.

A four-run fifth inning on Sunday, helped Coastal Carolina claim the series with a 5-2 victory, marking the Chanticleers third-straight conference series victory.

Looking at the Lancers
Longwood comes into the doubleheader with the Lady Flames sporting a 21-16 overall record. The Lancers dropped both ends of a twinbill against East Tennessee State over the weekend, but split with No. 19 Virginia Tech last Wednesday. The Hokies took the first game, 2-0, while the Lancers rebounded for 5-4 eight-inning victory, giving Longwood its second victory of the year over a Top 20 program.

Longwood is paced offensively by senior Ryan Washington. The shortstop is batting .364 with 28 runs scored, 18 RBI and 17 stolen bases. The Lancers don't have much long-ball power on their roster, with only six home runs on the year, but the squad ranks Top 60 nationally in both doubles (59th/1.24 per game) and triples (23rd/0.24 per game).

Senior Rachel Mills leads the Lancers from inside the pitcher's circle with a 10-8 record to go along with a 4.52 ERA. Freshman Briana Wells holds the squad's best ERA at 2.91 and is 9-7 in 15 starts this year.

Taking a View at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech will be playing a partial Big South schedule this weekend, as they host Radford on Tuesday and the Lady Flames on Wednesday. The No. 19 Hokies are fresh off an ACC series sweep of Boston College, upping Virginia Tech's record to 32-11 overall and 13-2 in conference action.

The Hokies have a pair of juniors leading the team with better than .300 averages. Third baseman Charisse Maricond leads the squad with a .377 mark, to go along with 24 runs scored, six doubles, three triples and three home runs. Outfielder Jenna Rhodes follows with a .324 batting average to go along with a team-best 29 stolen bases.

Senior Angela Tincher is one of the nation's leading pitchers, sporting a 23-5 record and a 0.46 ERA. The national player of the year candidate currently leads the nation in strikeouts per seven innings pitched, having fanned 416 batters in 198 innings of work. The righty enters the week needing just 114 strikeouts to become the third player in NCAA history to record 2,000 career strikeouts.

Series with the Lancers and Hokies
Liberty has a long-standing series record with both the Lancers and the Hokies. Liberty has faced off against Longwood 12 out of the last 14 seasons, with the Lancers leading the series 16-9. Last time the Lancers visited the Liberty Softball Field, Longwood took both ends of the doubleheader, 3-0 and 4-3, on April 6, 2006, which is part of a current seven-game winning streak for the Lancers in the series.

Similarly, Liberty and Virginia Tech have met on the softball diamond the last 11-consecutive seasons, which has the Hokies leading the series 19-11. Last time Liberty visited Blacksburg, Va., the Lady Flames posted back-to-back upsets, knocking off No. 24 Virginia Tech, 6-5 and 3-0, on May 5, 2006.

Staying Close to Home
The Lady Flames will play their next 11 games against in-state opponents, with eight of the 11 contests taking place on the road. Liberty hosts Longwood on Tuesday for two, followed by a non-conference doubleheader at No. 19 Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

Liberty will face arch rival Radford in a split three-game Big South series over the weekend. The Lady Flames will close out the run of in-state games by traveling to the Tidewater area on April 22 and 23 for a pair of non-conference doubleheaders at Hampton and Norfolk State.

Streaks Come to an End
The Lady Flames had two hitting streaks come to an end over the weekend. Ashley Williams was held hitless during the series opener against Coastal Carolina, ending the senior's career-best 11-game hitting streak.

Beth Bennett extended her hitting streak to 17 games in dramatic fashion on Saturday, hitting a solo home run in the sixth to propel Liberty to a 1-0 victory. However, the junior finished the Sunday finale 0-for-3, bringing to a close the longest hitting streak by a Lady Flame over the past seven seasons.

Road Success
Liberty finally picked up its first road victory of the year over the weekend, downing Coastal Carolina, 1-0, to force a doubleheader split on Saturday. Liberty had lost its first 10-consecutive road games to open the 2008 season.

Double Trouble
Liberty turned two double plays during its Sunday Big South series finale with Coastal Carolina, giving the Lady Flames 13 double plays on the year. The squad entered last week ranked No. 29 nationally in double plays per game, averaging a double play every three games (0.37 per game).

Finally Getting a Close One
The Lady Flames split a doubleheader with Coastal Carolina over the weekend, claiming a 1-0 victory over the Chanticleers in the second game on Saturday. Liberty hasn't had much success in one-run games this year, posting a 3-10 record in games decided by one run.

Honored to Stay
Following Liberty's road doubleheader with Virginia Tech on Wednesday, the Lady Flames have been invited to stay in Blacksburg, Va., to take part in a campus-wide candlelight vigil. Liberty will be playing the Hokies on the one-year anniversary of its campus tragedy where 32 students and faculty members lost their lives on April 16, 2007.

Take a Seat
Dana Wheeler and Tiffani Smith combined to fan 10 batters during Liberty's 1-0 victory over Coastal Carolina on Saturday. The total marked the third time this year Liberty has struck out 10 or more batters in a game. Wheeler has been a part of all three contests.

On Feb. 23, the sophomore fanned a career-best 12 batters in a 7-0 win over Kennesaw State. On March 17, the lefty claimed 10 strikeout victims to lead Liberty to a 3-0 triumph over St. Louis.

Free Pass Review
Liberty walked five batters during its Sunday loss to Coastal Carolina, accounting for the third time the Lady Flames' pitching staff has allowed five or more walks over the last 24 games. The Lady Flames struggled to find the plate early in the year, walking five or more during seven of its first 13 games.

During the 13-game span, Liberty averaged 4.8 walks per game. Over the last 24 games, the Lady Flames has cut the number of free passes in half, averaging 2.3 walks per game.

Home Run Happiness
Over the weekend, the Lady Flames continued their long-ball success of late, recording their 11th game out of the last 15 with at least one home run. Early in the season, the Lady Flames struggled to get the ball to leave the park, recording four home runs during their first 22 contests in 2008.

Facing the Best
On Wednesday, the Lady Flames will face the No. 19 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies, giving Liberty its fourth and fifth games against Top 25 teams this year (also faced No. 10 Tennessee in a doubleheader and No. 14 Baylor in a single game).

Liberty has posted an all-time record of 6-24 against nationally ranked teams. However, Liberty has had some success of late when facing the nation's best, recording wins over Top 25 clubs during the last three seasons.

Liberty defeated No. 25 Texas A&M Corpus Christi in 2005, swept No. 24 Virginia Tech in 2006 and downed No. 6 Michigan, No. 10 Baylor and No. 23 Hawaii last year.