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LU Falls to Panthers to Open Championship

May 8, 2008  Rock Hill, S.C.  RSS
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Sarah Ellis suffered her seventh one-run loss of the year during Liberty's 2-1 setback against Birmingham-Southern to open the 2008 Big South Softball Championships.

Sarah Ellis suffered her seventh one-run loss of the year during Liberty's 2-1 setback against Birmingham-Southern to open the 2008 Big South Softball Championships.

No. 4 seed Liberty scored first off a fielder's choice play in the second, but No. 5 seed Birmingham-Southern plated runs in the fourth and fifth, and then rode the arm of second-team all-conference pitcher Bethney Reynoldson to a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the 2008 Big South Softball Championship, Thursday morning, at Terry Field.

With the victory, the Panthers up their record to 32-26 on the season and advance to face host and No. 1 seed Winthrop later on this afternoon in Game 3 of the three-day tournament. The contest is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.

The setback drops the Lady Flames into the loser's bracket and pushes Liberty's overall record to 17-39-1. Liberty will open Day 2 at the Championship tomorrow against No. 6 Charleston Southern, who lost a 3-1 contest to No. 3 Coastal Carolina in Game 2 later in the afternoon.

Liberty broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second, beginning with J'nae Jefferson's double to the gap in left center field. Keely McMillon gave Liberty runners at the corners when the freshman dropped a bunt single in between Reynoldson and Grace Stokes, as the pitcher and second baseman were charging on the play.

Following a strikeout, Shannon McKain dropped a bunt down the first-base line, but Lindsay Creighton's throw to the plate was not in time to get Jefferson coming in from third to give Liberty the early 1-0 lead.

Birmingham-Southern took advantage of a Liberty fielding error in the fourth to put its first dent on the scoreboard. Melissa Muehlenfeld began the frame with a single up the middle, followed by a walk issued to Lindsay Creighton.

Stokes loaded the bases for the Panthers with the inning's second hit, a base knock up the middle. Starting pitcher Sarah Ellis induced a ground ball from Anne Lawrence to shortstop, but Jefferson wasn't able to make the play, allowing Muehlenfeld to score the unearned run.

The Panthers add the game's second and final run in the fifth inning. Muehlenfeld continued to be a factor for Birmingham-Southern, beating out an infield single to short.

Creighton drew her third of four walks during the contest to give the Panthers two base runs, followed by DiAmond Jordan's base hit up the middle to plate Muehlenfeld from second and give the No. 5 seed the lead for good.

Liberty threatened during the sixth and seventh inning, stranding a pair of base runners during both frames. During the sixth, back-to-back singles through the left side of the infield by Beth Bennett and second-team all-conference honoree Ashley Williams were followed by a pair of fielder's choice plays to end the inning.

In the seventh, pinch hitter Leah Cossentino opened the inning with a single to center field. Three batters later, Amber DePasquale singled to right, while base runners advanced a base following a throwing error on the relay back to the infield.

However, Reynoldson got her eighth and final strikeout by fanning Cassie Hendrix on a high inside pitch to secure her 27th complete game of the year. The senior, who was one of two second-team all-conference pitchers honored at last night's awards banquet, upped her record to 21-11, scattering seven hits over seven innings of work, while allowing the lone run.

Ellis was the tough-luck loser, falling to 8-20 on the season, as the righty suffered her seventh one-run loss of the year. She allowed two runs, one of which was earned, on four hits over 6 1/3 innings of work. Tiffani Smith got the final two outs in the top of the seventh, including a strikeout to end the frame.

Muehlenfeld, who also was named to the Big South second-team all-conference team yesterday, led the Panthers from the plate as she was 2-for-3 with both runs scored. Jordan followed by going 1-for-4 with a RBI.

Liberty, who outhit the Panthers 7-4 in the contest, evenly spread its seven hits among seven different players. Jefferson was 1-for-2 with Liberty's lone run scored, pushing the sophomore's hitting streak to seven games.

Bennett followed by going 1-for-4, extending her hitting streak to seven games, while Williams was 1-for-3 to add to her school record 244 career hit total.