Patrick Eckelbarger pitched a four-hit shutout and Alex Close hit a three-run home run, leading the No. 3 Flames to a 7-0 victory over the No. 2 seed Campbell Fighting Camels, Thursday in Game 8 of the 2012 Big South Baseball Championship at Willard Stadium.
Eckelbarger pitched his third complete game of the year to run his record to 7-1. The senior right-hander scattered four hits during his nine innings of work. He struck out seven batters and walked one. Eckelbarger did not allow a runner past second base and allowed only two to reach second. Through the first five innings, he permitted the Camels only two base runners.
First baseman Close hit his 14th home run of the season, breaking the Big South record for home runs in a season by a freshman. Already the Liberty freshman record holder, Close connected for a three-run home run in the first inning to eclipse the previous conference mark held by four former players. The first baseman had two hits in the contest for the Flames.
Liberty moves to 40-19 and advances to Game 11 of the Big South Championship tomorrow at 10 a.m. The Flames will face the winner of an elimination game, played later today, between the No. 5 seed Radford Highlanders and the No. 4 seed Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. With their win today, the Flames have posted 40 or more wins three times in program history and twice under head coach Jim Toman.
Campbell is now 41-17, and will face No. 7 seed High Point in an elimination game later today.
Liberty, the visiting team on the scoreboard, jumped out to a 4-0 lead in its opening at bat. Left fielder Ian Parmley singled and center fielder Andy Smith was hit by a pitch to open the game. After a double steal by the base runners, Parmley scored on a grounder by right fielder Michael Robertson for a 1-0 lead. With Smith and Robertson aboard, Close followed with his Big South record blast over the left field to give the Flames a 4-0 advantage.
After the four-run Liberty first inning, neither team was able to plate a run until the sixth. Eckelbarger handcuffed the Camels through the first five innings, allowing only one hit. Meanwhile, Campbell starter Hector Cedano settled in and retired 16 Liberty batters in a row and did not allow a hit for 18 consecutive batters after the Flames' uprising in the first.
Liberty struck for two runs in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Robertson reached on a fielding error by Campbell third baseman David Olson. Two batters later, Robertson moved to third base on a single by second baseman Bryan Aanderud. Pinch hitter Justin Sizemore followed by lining a two-out double off the left field wall, plating both runners for a 6-0 lead.
The Flames added to their advantage with a run in the eighth. Ryan Cordell led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a single by Robertson, upping the Liberty lead to 7-0.
Cedano falls to 3-2 on the year. He gave up four runs on seven hits. He struck out four batters and did not walk any.
Liberty had seven hits in the contest, getting base hits from six different batters.