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Liberty to Conclude Florida Trip at USF

March 17, 2011  Clearwater, Fla.  RSS
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The Lady Flames will compete in the USF The Game Tournament this weekend in Clearwater, Fla.

The Lady Flames will compete in the USF The Game Tournament this weekend in Clearwater, Fla.

The Liberty Lady Flames will wrap up their 2011 spring break trip to the "Sunshine State" this weekend, appearing in the USF The Game Tournament in Clearwater, Fla. Liberty will play five games during the event, facing North Florida, Long Island, UT-Chattanooga, Buffalo and No. 21 Texas Tech.

The Lady Flames, now 7-7 on the year, will try to recover from a three-game skid tomorrow, facing North Florida during their first tournament game.

Liberty is 2-5 since arriving in Florida last week, defeating Iowa (3-1) and Stetson (4-0) en route to a runner-up finish at the Stetson Classic, but dropping its last three contests to Iowa (2-4), UCF (3-4/8 innings) and No. 22 Texas A&M (4-0).

Second baseman Kelly Strickland leads the squad with a .278 average at the plate, while catcher Ashley Bensinger has driven in 10 runs this year. Rookie infielder Sammi Shivock has been hot, and is now on a five-game hitting streak, the longest on the team this year.

The 2011 Lady Flames have shown their strength at the plate, recorded 13 home runs in just 14 games.

The Liberty pitching staff is paced by sophomore Katrina Johnson (3-3), who boasts a 1.64 ERA with 31 strikeouts. She held the No. 22 Texas A&M Aggies hitless through four innings, before they broke away with four runs in the fifth inning, Thursday afternoon.

The Lady Flames are 6-6 playing on neutral fields this year, and will play all five games of the tournament at the Eddie C. Moore Complex.

USF The Game Tournament
Clearwater, Fla.

Friday, March 18
Liberty vs. North Florida, 12:30 p.m.
Liberty vs. Long Island, 3 p.m.

Saturday, March 19
Liberty vs. Chattanooga, 10 a.m.
Liberty vs. Buffalo, 3 p.m.

Sunday, March 20
Liberty vs. No. 21 Texas Tech, 9:30 a.m.

Following the Lady Flames
All games this weekend will be available to view via GameTracker on

Scouting the Opponents

North Florida
The Ospreys (12-10) have won seven of their last eight contests, falling only to Kansas, 2-1, last weekend. North Florida has posted wins over UCF, Troy and Florida A&M this season.

Alyson Bailey leads the team with a .333 average, followed by Lauren Pollack (.311). Mariah Reynolds leads the Ospreys with 15 RBIs this season. The Ospreys have favored the two-base hit this season, having pounded out 32 doubles in 22 games, to go along with six triples and eight homes runs.

Freshman pitcher Courtney Radke, the reigning Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Week, leads the staff with a 1.82 ERA and a 10-8 record. The collegiate rookie has fanned 127 batters this season, giving her 6.35 strikeouts per outing. She has also handed the bulk load of work for the North Florida, as she has recorded 119.0 innings of work out of the team's 150 total innings pitched.

Tomorrow's matchup will mark the first-ever meeting between Liberty and North Florida.

Long Island
Long Island (7-18) has won four out of its last six games, including a 4-3 win over Big South member Radford on March 12.

The Blackbirds are hitting .223 as a team, compared to .309 for their opponents. The squad is led by sophomore Emily Kakusa, who is batting .333 with 10 RBIs.

In the circle, Heather White leads the staff with a 2-2 record and a 3.43 ERA. In 34.2 innings, she has given up 36 hits and has struck out 13 batters. The Blackbirds' pitching staff has had a tough time keeping the softball in the park, as they have allowed 19 home runs in 26 games.

The Lady Flames have only faced Long Island once, on March 30, 1996. Liberty lost that contest, 2-1, in the opening game of the Sports Plus Tournament.

The Mocs are 16-5 this year, and are 7-4 when playing at neutral sites. Chattanooga has won three in a row after sweeping conference opponent Samford in a three-game series at home, March 12 and 13.

Eight Chattanooga batters are hitting over .300, and two of those are hitting above .400. The Mocs two .400-plus hitters are Tiffany Baker and Lauren Flores, who are both hitting .419 coming into the weekend event.

Baker has tagged six of the team's 20 home runs in 2011, to go along with five doubles. Flores leads the squad with six doubles and is one of eight players to have scored 10 or more runs on the season (12), helping Chattanooga average 6.4 runs per contest.

Lyndsey Stiles ranks next on Chattanooga's potent offensive attack with a .371 batting average, and leads the team with 22 runs scored and 16-of-17 stolen bases.

Kandice Irwin leads the squad with a 1.46 ERA and is 6-1 on the season, but the senior has only started one game in 16 appearances. Michelle Fuzzard is 8-3 in the circle with four complete games and a 2.91 ERA, but has walked a team-high 20 batters.

Liberty and Chattanooga have faced off six times, with the Mocs victorious in all six meetings. The last game between the two teams took place on March 13, 2008, when Chattanooga claimed a 3-2 victory.

The Bulls (3-16) recently snapped a seven-game losing streak, posting a 4-3 win over Florida Atlantic on March 13.

The team has faced two Big South members this year, defeating Winthrop, 1-0, on February 18 and falling to Presbyterian College, 2-0, on March 5.

The Buffalo offense is paced by Jessica Griffin, who is batting .250 with seven RBIs. The Bulls have only generated 32 runs and 15 extra base hits in 19 games. Stolen bases have abounded during Buffalo's games this year, as the Bulls have swiped 23-of-33 bases, while their opponents have stolen 40-of-48 attempts.

Pitcher Tori Speckman is 1-6 with a 4.85 ERA and 39 strikeouts; however, the freshman has allowed nine of the 14 home runs that the Buffalo pitching staff has surrendered in 2011.
Saturday's matchup will be the first contest between Liberty and Buffalo.

No. 21 Texas Tech
The Red Raiders are nearly perfect this year, posting a 29-1 overall record. The team has done well at neutral sites, winning all five contests away from their home field.

The Texas Tech offense boasts strong numbers, as six players are batting over .400. Logan Hall leads the team with a .481 average and 44 RBIs, while Cydney Allen is hitting .465 with 10 home runs.
Kelsey Dennis (8-0) has been unbeatable in the circle, giving up 31 hits and striking out 40 batters in 43.2 innings of work, good for a 1.76 ERA.

Sunday's matchup with Texas Tech will mark Liberty's second appearance versus a Top-25 opponent this season. The Lady Flames dropped a 4-0 decision to No. 22 Texas A&M on Thursday.

Liberty is 1-3 all-time against the Red Raiders, and Texas Tech won the last meeting, 15-7, on March 20, 2005.