Tyler Bream rounds the bases after hitting a home run, Wednesday. Bream broke the school record for hits in the season by recording his 95th, Saturday.
The No. 2 seed Liberty Flames advanced to its fourth conference title game in five years, eliminating the No. 4 seed High Point Panthers with a 9-5 victory, Saturday morning in Game 11 of the Big South Baseball Championship at the Winthrop Ballpark.
Liberty moves to 42-18 on the year and advances to play No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina for the Big South title at 3 p.m. today. High Point finishes the season at 31-29.
Both teams got on the scoreboard in the third inning, with Liberty grabbing the advantage. High Point plated the first run of the contest in the top of the inning. With one out, shortstop Mike Mercurio singled and center fielder Nate Roberts walked. After completing a double steal to move both runners into scoring position, a ground out by left fielder Matt Gantner plated the first run of the contest.
In the bottom of the inning, Liberty first baseman Trey Wimmer drew a one-out walk and moved to third base on a single by center fielder Curran Redal. A ground out by shortstop Matt Williams tied the contest at 1-1. Third baseman Tyler Bream followed with a single to bring home Redal, giving the Flames a 2-1 lead.
Bream's hit was his 95th of the year, breaking the program record for hits in a season. Bream's hit total surpassed the season total of former Flame second baseman Michael Just, who had 94 hits in 2006.
After turning a double play with the bases loaded with Panthers to end the top of the fourth, Liberty extended its lead with two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Second baseman P.J. Jimenez began the frame with a single and moved to second on a ground out. After left fielder Kenneth Negron followed with a singled to move Jimenez to third, right fielder Casey Brown produced the first run of the inning with a grounder to the shortstop, which was mishandled by Mercurio for an error.
The next batter, Wimmer, was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and end the day for High Point starter Jamie Serber. Facing new pitcher Drew Dades, Redal was hit by a pitch to force in the second run of the stanza for a 4-1 advantage.
High Point cut into the Liberty lead to 4-2 on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Steve Antolik in the top of the fifth, only to see the Flames push across two more runs in the bottom of the inning to up their advantage. With one out, catcher Nathan Thompson singled and two batters later, moved to second on a two-out single by designated hitter Austin Taylor. Negron followed by ripping a double off the right-center field wall to cash in both runners for a 6-2 edge.
The Panthers trimmed the Liberty lead to 6-3 with a run in the sixth. Second baseman Drew Geissinger reached on a fielding error by Jimenez and stole second. Two batters later, a two-out single by Mercurio scored Geissinger.
Liberty added to its lead in the seventh. With the bases loaded, Brown laced a triple past the center fielder Roberts and all the way to the wall, clearing the bases for a 9-3 advantage.
High Point scored a run in the eighth on a RBI single by Mercurio and a run in the ninth on a fielder's choice for the final 9-5 margin.
Starter Tim Dudley gave the Flames a strong start in his first trip to the mound in a month, recording his first collegiate victory to move to 1-0. The freshman left-hander allowed three runs on six hits. He struck out four batters and walked six. Dane Beakler followed and yielded two runs on three hits over two innings of relief. Steven Evans pitched a scoreless ninth.
Panther starter Jamie Serber takes the loss, falling to 6-3. He gave up four runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings. The first of four High Point pitchers in the contest struck out one batter and walked one.
Bream, Taylor and Negron each had two hits for Liberty. Brown had four RBIs for the Flames. Mercurio had three hits for High Point.