Katrina Johnson struck out a season-high 11 batters as Liberty dropped a 4-2 decision to Presbyterian College.
In Liberty's longest game of the season, the Blue Hose of Presbyterian College held on for a 4-2 victory, Saturday afternoon, in game two of a Big South doubleheader.
The Lady Flames drop to 23-24 overall, and 9-5 in the Big South, while Presbyterian Collegeimproves to 25-16 overall and 9-8 in conference play. After a quiet first inning, the Blue Hose took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Katie Anderson hit a solo homer to left center, her third of the year. Liberty recorded its first hit of the contest in the bottom of the second, when Jenny Law hit a two-out double to right center. But Kaylee West flied out to left, sending the game into the third frame. The Blue Hose put runners on first and second with nobody out in the top of the third. Amanda Miller led off with a walk, and Morgan Durham followed up with a single through the left side. But Liberty pitcher Katrina Johnson fanned two batters, and Miller was caught trying to steal third, and the Lady Flames escaped the jam. With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Meredith Crisante singled to right. On the next play, Ashley Bensinger ripped her ninth home run of the season with a shot to center field, allowing the Lady Flames to take a 2-1 advantage. The visiting team made a threat in the top of the fifth. Anderson reached on a fielding error by Sammi Shivock, then moved to second on a sac bunt by Taylor Staten. Kristen Handy was safe at first on an infield single, and pinch hitter Kayla Handy singled to center field to load the bases. Johnson tossed a wild pitch to Miller, allowing Kristen Handy to score, tying the game at 2-all. The Lady Flames responded with back-to-back hits from Amber DePasquale and pinch hitter Jill Stephens with one out in the bottom of the fifth. But Keely McMillon struck out swinging, and Crisante flied out to right to end the inning with the game still tied. In the bottom of the seventh, West led off with a single up the middle, and was replaced at first by pinch runner Bridgett Woods. Woods moved to second on a successful sac bunt by Shivock, but DePasquale fouled out for the second out. At that point, Presbyterian College made a pitching change, bringing in Leslie Hensley to relieve starter Brittany Howell. But Stephens grounded out to third for the final out, sending the game into extra innings. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Bensinger reached on a throwing error by Hensley. But Strickland struck out swinging, and the game moved into the top of the ninth. Shivock drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth, but DePasquale struck out to keep the game going. The international tiebreaker rule went into effect in the top of the 10th, placing a runner on second at the beginning of the inning. With Codee Yeske on second, Lindsey Trombley put down a sac bunt to move the runner to third. Yeske then scored when Staten reached on a successful suicide squeeze, giving the Blue Hose a 3-2 lead. Kristen Handy then drew a walk to put runners on first and second with only one out. The problems for Liberty continued, as Rachel Hopper reached on a fielding error by Shivock. But the shortstop redeemed herself on the next play, forcing Staten out at home for the second out. But the visitors were able to tack another run onto their lead when Miller was hit by a pitch, which moved the score to 4-2. DePasquale was placed on second at the beginning of Liberty's next at-bat, and Stephens walked to put runners on first and second with nobody out. One out later, Crisante grounded into a fielder's choice, as Stephens was forced out at second and DePasquale advanced to third. But Bensinger grounded into another fielder's choice, and Crisante was out at second for the final out of the game, giving Presbyterian the 4-2 victory. Bensinger led the Lady Flames, batting 1-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Law was 1-for-4 with a double. The Blue Hose were paced by Anderson and Staten, who both went 1-for-3 with an RBI. Hensley (16-10) picked up the win in the circle, giving up no hits and no runs in 3.1 innings of work. Johnson (12-9) suffered the loss, giving up five hits and four earned runs. However, the sophomore struck out a season-high 11 batters in the 10 inning showing. Johnson also threw a complete game in the first contest of the day, tallying 16 total innings of work today. Liberty and Presbyterian College will face off for the third game of the series tomorrow at 1 p.m., which also marks Senior Day at Liberty Softball Field.