Senior right-hander Dustin Umberger and the rest of the Liberty Flames open their 2009 season, Friday.
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
The Games The Liberty Flames (0-0, 0-0 Big South) travel to Mobile, Ala., to start their 2009 campaign and the program's 36th year at the Coca-Cola Classic, Feb. 20-22 at Stanky Field. Liberty will open its season, Friday, against the No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels (0-0, 0-0 SEC) at 2 p.m. The following day, the Flames will play two contests, at noon and 7 p.m., against the tournament host South Alabama Jaguars (0-0,0-0 Sun Belt). Liberty will conclude the weekend tournament by facing the Mercer Bears (0-0, 0-0 A-Sun) at 11 a.m. Sunday. What to Watch After posting a 35-26-1 mark in 2008, Liberty will attempt to get out to a fast start in 2009 with seven new faces in the starting line-up. The Flames' starting nine returns catcher Errol Hollinger, infielder Cody Brown and outfielder Jeff Jefferson from last year's line-up. Hollinger, who will start behind the plate for the fourth consecutive season, has been named to the 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch list. Liberty's Friday starter, Dustin Umberger, led the Big South Conference in strikeouts and was second in wins in 2008. The senior right-hander was voted by conference coaches as one of the top pitchers in the Big South (College Baseball Insider) entering 2009. Friday's opponent Ole Miss is ranked No. 12 in the nation and comes off its sixth straight NCAA Regional appearance in 2008. The Rebels posted a 39-26 record in 2008 and advanced to the championship game of the SEC Tournament for the second time in three seasons. Returning for Ole Miss is a bevy of players, highlighted by right-handed pitcher Scott Bittle, catcher Brett Basham and outfielder Logan Power. Bittle is a preseason All-America selection and candidate for the Brooks Wallace Award, while Basham was the top defensive catcher in the SEC last season and Power is the top returning hitter for the Rebels. Host South Alabama returns five starters from last season's 32-26 team. Like Liberty, the Jaguars are led by a catcher. Senior David Doss has been named to the Sun Belt Conference's preseason all-conference team. The catcher, along with returning first baseman Ryan Bohanan, each hit over .325 in 2008. Mercer returns five starters from 2008's 24-33 team. Among the Bears' returners are outfielder Joe Winkler, who was an A-Sun all-conference selection and Mercer's leading hitter last season, and senior pitcher Dan April, who had a 2.70 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 70 innings pitched in 2008.
A Look at
Flames Reach 30 Victories for Fourth Straight Season There are several milestones upon which teams are measured in college baseball. One such milestone is winning 30 or more games in a season. With its 8-1 victory over High Point on May 16 at Worthington Stadium, Liberty collected its 30th win of 2008 and went on to post a 35-26-1 record. It is the first time in the 35-year history of the program; Liberty has won 30 or more games in four consecutive seasons. The Flames started the run in 2005 with 36 wins, followed by a 39-victory season in 2006. In 2007, Liberty won 36 games. It was the second time in school history; Liberty had posted 30 wins in three consecutive years. The Flames have reached 30 wins in a season 14 times in the program's 35-year history. Of the 14, 10 have come at the NCAA Division I level. A Look Ahead Liberty will travels to James Madison and No. 1 North Carolina for its first midweek games of 2009. The Flames will square off with the James Madison Dukes, a 2008 NCAA Regional participant, at Long Field/Mauck Stadium, Tuesday at 3 p.m. It will be the first of three meetings between the two teams during the year. On Wednesday, Liberty will face the No.1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, a 2008 College World Series participant, at Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium. The Flames return to Lynchburg on Saturday, Feb. 28 to open their 2009 home schdule. Jim Toman's squad will host the Manhattan Jaspers in a doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Worthington Stadium. The twinbill will begin at noon. The two teams will conclude the series the following day with a single game, beginning at 1 p.m.
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