Despite a strong outing by Liberty starter John Niggli, the Winthrop Eagles used an unearned run in the ninth inning to edge the Liberty Flames, 2-1, in game two of a Big South doubleheader at Worthington Stadium, Friday night.
With its first loss in conference action, Liberty drops to 4-1 in the Big South and 13-11 overall. Winthrop moves to 3-2 in the Big South and 10-12 overall. The victory snaps a seven-game losing streak by the Eagles at Worthington Stadium. Liberty had won the earlier contest of the Friday twinbill, 5-2.
Hits and runs were at a premium throughout the evening, as Liberty right-hander John Niggli and Winthrop right-hander Robert Lake dueled for the full nine innings.
Niggli allowed two runs on seven hits over 8 2/3 innings. He struck out a season-high seven and walked two batters. After giving up a run in the first frame, the junior settled down and retired 10 straight Eagle hitters until a two-out single by center fielder Cam Walters in the fifth inning.
Lake gave up one run on five hits over eight innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter. After allowing a leadoff single by center fielder Ian Parmley to open the contest, Lake set down 12 straight Flames, before a double by Liberty third basman Tyler Bream to open the fifth inning.
Winthrop jumped on the scoreboard in its opening at bat. Second baseman Tyler Cook opened the game with an infield single and moved to second base two batters later, when catcher Eddie Rohan was hit by a pitch. Designated hitter Brett Thomas followed with a run-scoring single to give the Eagles a 1-0 advantage.
Winthrop held that edge until the bottom of the sixth inning. After stranding Bream at third base with one out in the fifth frame, Liberty was able to push the equalizer across in its next at bat. Second baseman Austin Taylor lined a single into center field to begin the frame and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Parmley. Right fielder Michael Robertson followed with a single to left field, which got away from left fielder Chas Crane and allowed Taylor to score, knotting the game at 1-1.
In the top of the ninth, the Eagles used a Liberty miscue with two outs to take the lead. Left fielder Patrick Gamblin reached on a infield single to open the frame and advanced to second on a two-out single by shortstop Adam Gliebe. Center fielder Cam Walters then singled to Liberty shortstop Matt Williams and when first baseman Jeff Jefferson could not handle his throw up the line, Gamblin raced home with the go-ahead run.
A Liberty two-out rally was squelched in the bottom of the inning by reliever Eric Ruth. Bream ripped a double into the left field corner with two away, but Ruth was able to get the next Flame to line out to right field to close out the Eagle win and record his first save of the year.
Niggli falls to 3-2 on the year, while Lake picks up his first win of the season, moving to 1-2.
Bream had two of Liberty's six hits in the game, both doubles. Walters had two hits for the Eagles.
Winthrop and Liberty will met again tomorrow in the final contest of their three-game Big South series at Worthington Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m.