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Liberty to Square Off with Winthrop at Worthington

March 24, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Shortstop Matt Williams

Shortstop Matt Williams

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The Liberty Flames (12-10, 3-0 Big South) complete a seven-game homestand, with a three-game Big South series with the Winthrop Eagles (9-11, 2-1 Big South), Friday-Sunday at Worthington Stadium.  Friday night's series opener is scheduled for 7 p.m., while both Saturday and Sunday's contest have a first pitch slated for 3 p.m.
   
Last Time Out
For the first time this season, the Liberty Flames played extra innings, falling to the Virginia Tech Hokies, 9-6, in 10 innings in a non-conference game at Worthington Stadium, Tuesday.
Liberty jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the contest after five innings. However, the visiting Hokies scored four times with two outs in the eighth to tie the game and send it to exta frames.  Virginia Tech plated three in the 10th on a bases-clearing double for the win.
   
On Deck
The Flames head out on the road with a non-conference contest against the VCU Rams, Tuesday. The game will be the first of five-straight road games for Liberty.  Game time at the Diamond in Richmond, Va., is scheduled for 3 p.m.
       
Following the Flames
Television   
All three games of this series will be broadcast LIVE by the Flames Sports Network. Nick Pierce will handle play-by-play duties and former Flames pitcher Doug Wallace will provide commentary for the broadcasts.  Alan York will provide reports from on the field.
The broadcast will also be available for a nominal fee on the Big South Network. The video stream will be available on the World Wide Web at both LibertyFlames.com and BigSouthSports.com.

Audio
An audio feed for each contest maybe heard via a link at LibertyFlames.com.

March Musings
Liberty will enter this weekend's series with a 9-5 record during the month of March. With one game canceled this month due to inclement weather, Jim Toman's squad has four games remaining in  the month.
Liberty posted a 10-8 mark in games during March last season, including a 1-2 start to Big South Conference play. The Flames are 356-280-2 (.560) all-time during the month.

Home Sweet Home
For the past 32 years, the Flames have called Worthington Stadium home. Named for program architect and the first Liberty head baseball coach, Al Worthington, Liberty has compiled an impressive 529-241-5 record at the stadium for a winning percentage of .685 since the facility's inception in 1979.
The Flames are 5-3 on the year at Worthington Stadium. Liberty posted a 19-9 record at home in 2010. The Flames are 55-28-1 at home under four-year head coach Jim Toman's guidance.

Playing Under the Lights
After defeating Charleston Southern, 2-1, this past Friday night at Worthington, Liberty is 1-1 in night games this season. Liberty is scheduled to play 17 games under  the stars this year.  The Flames next night game is scheduled to be the first game of the Liberty-Winthrop series at Worthington Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Last season, Liberty  posted a 5-6 record in night contests.

Get Your Running Shoes On
What a difference a year makes.  So far this season, Liberty has tried to take advantage of its team speed, doubling its stolen base total from a year ago. The Flames have stolen 42 bases in 52 attempts this season, compared to 2010, when the Flames swiped only 17 bases in 26 tries through 22 games. Liberty's 42 stolen bases leads Radford by one for the Big South Conference lead.
Leading the way for the Flames is catcher Casey Rasmus who is 11-for-11 in steal attempts this season. He is currently third in the Big South Conference in steals. Center fielder Ian Parmley who is  next with eight thefts (8-for-11).         
The Flames stolen base totals are definitely a stark contrast from last season, when only outfielder Curran Redal had stolen five bases at this point in the year. This season, four Liberty players have five or more base thefts.  Outfielders Michael Robertson (six) and Doug Bream join the previously mentioned Rasmus and Parmley, with five or more stolen bases.

Casey Rasmus - Base Cop    
Flames catcher Casey Rasmus has been tough to on base stealers this season.  The junior has thrown out 48% (12-of-25) would-be base thieves this year.  Rasmus leads the Big South Conference in caught base stealers.
On the flip side, the catcher leads Liberty and ranks third in the Big South with 11 steals.  Rasmus is 11-for-11 in steal attempts.

Evans Pitches Way into Record Book
With a career-high 12 strikeouts in a 5-2, complete-game victory over Charleston Southern last Sunday, senior left-hander Steven Evans moved into seventh on Liberty's all-time strikeout list with 219, surpassing Randy Tomlin who had 211 for the Flames from 1986-88. With one strikeout this weekend, he will tie Lee Guetterman (1978-81) on the career K list. Mike Brown is Liberty's career strikeout leader with 287. Evans is currently tied for second in the Big South with 34 strikeouts this season.
Also with the victory, Evans moved into a tie for eighth on the program's career wins list with 21.  The senior, who has a career record of 21-10, is tied with Kyle Bryan (1981-85), Doug Smith (1980-82) and Brian Harrell (1996-2000) on the all-time list. The previously mentioned Guetterman won 29 games during his career topping the Liberty all-time wins list.
A fixture of the Flame pitching staff over the past four years, Evans has a 21-10 record with a  3.60 ERA.  The left-hander has pitched 255 1/3 innings, striking out the 219 and walking 84 batters, a 2.6 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.    

Leaning On Linza
Senior right-hander Keegan Linza is off to a strong start this season, becoming a reliable part of the Liberty starting rotation this season.
The right-hander has posted a 4-0 record with a 2.33 ERA during his five starts. He has struck out 30 and walked five, while leading the Big South Conference with 38 2/3 innings pitched. In his last four starts, the senior has not allowed more than two runs.
Linza has thrown back-to-back complete games in his last two outings in victories over Rutgers and Charleston Southern to up his career total to three.
On March 11 against Rutgers at the Keith LeClair Classic, the senior held off the Scarlet Knights in the ninth inning for a 5-2 win.  Linza gave up two runs on seven hits over the full nine innings.  He struck out five and did not walk a batter. He retired the first 10 Scarlet Knight batters to face him in the contest and did not allow a runner past second base until the seventh inning, when Rutgers scored its first run of the contest.
This past Friday, the Salisbury, N.C., native went the distance again in a 2-1 victory over Charleston Southern, setting the table for a weekend sweep. Linza scattered eight hits over nine innings, striking out a career-high 10 batters and walking one. The right hander's 10 punchouts eclipse his previous career high of eight in an 11-2 win over Kennesaw State during his first appearance in a Liberty uniform on Feb. 20, 2010.
With a 12-0 career record, the right-hander has not lost since joining the Flames in 2010.
     
Picking Up the Pace
With new bats and new rules to speed up time between innings and govern mound visits, the time Flames contests have been played in this season has seen a significant drop.  So far this season, Liberty games have run an average of 2:31, compared to 2:45 minutes at this point in the season in 2010, a 14-minute difference.  
Last season through 22 games, Liberty had already played six games which lasted three hours or longer, with the the longest being 3:43 in a 14-13, 10 inning setback to Manhattan on March 20.  This season, the Flames have had only three games go over three hours, the longest 3:11 in a 17-5 loss in game two of a twinbill at Mercer on Feb. 19.

Are New Bats Affecting Power Numbers?
How much has the new bat affected play this season? The Flames have 20  less hits than last season through 22 games and have seen their extra base hits drop. The Flames have  50 extra base hits - 35 doubles, three triples and 12 home runs, so far in 2011. Liberty has a .382 slugging percentage.
In comparison at this point last season, the Flames had 25 more extra base hits or  33% more than this season. Jim Toman's 2010 club had 75 extra base hits - 54 doubles, three triples and 18 home runs at this point in the season. Also, it had a .453 slugging percentage.

It is What I Like About Sunday
Liberty has opened the year 4-0 in games played on Sunday. In those games, the Flames have outscored their opponents, 21-7, and has a .254 batting average compared to a .173 for their opponents.
Led by starter Steven Evans, who has recorded both of his wins this season on Sunday, Liberty pitchers have posted a 1.75 ERA over their four games.