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Lady Flames Set to Open Conference Play

March 17, 2010  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Lady Flames will open conference play tomorrow with a doubleheader against 2009 Big South champion Radford.

The Lady Flames will open conference play tomorrow with a doubleheader against 2009 Big South champion Radford.

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After a solid 9-4 spring break road trip, the Lady Flames are set to open 2010 Big South conference play with a doubleheader against 2009 Big South Champion Radford, Thursday afternoon, in Radford, Va. First pitch for Game 1 is scheduled for 3 p.m., with Game 2 immediately following.

The Lady Flames, 12-6 overall this season, are on a two-game winning streak after sweeping East Tennessee State, 6-2 and 6-4, Tuesday afternoon, in Johnson City, Tenn.

The last time the Lady Flames won 12 of their first 18 games was in 2006, and the start marks the third time in program history the squad has had such a successful beginning.

Liberty is led offensively by sophomore Kelly Strickland, who is batting .382 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. Junior Amber DePasquale, batting .348, has raised her batting average nearly 60 points in the last six games.

Liberty's pitching staff is headed up by freshman Katie Warrington (5-1), who has picked up wins in each of her last five starts. Junior Tiffani Smith (6-3), leads the squad with 60 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings of work.

The Highlanders, the reigning Big South regular-season and tournament champions, are 7-8 on the year. They just returned home from an extended road trip to Florida, where they went 6-4 during the 10-day span. The Radford has posted wins over Indiana, Middle Tennessee State and Boston, and their most recent loss came as a 5-3 decision to Central Michigan on March 13 in Clearwater, Fla.

Shannon Keefe boasts the best Highlander batting average at .419, while Nichole Beall leads the team with six home runs and 10 RBIs.

Pitcher Chelsea Kelley (5-3), the 2009 Big South Pitcher of the Year, leads the staff with 34 strikeouts, while Heather Paquette (2-2) has a team-best 3.06 ERA.

The Lady Flames are 22-36 all-time against the Highlanders, and the two teams last met in the finals of the 2009 Big South Conference Softball Championships. Liberty won the first game, 5-3, to force a second matchup for the title. Radford came out on top, 10-1, to claim the victory and qualify for the NCAA Regional tournament, on May 9, 2009.