Trio of weekend starters hurl Flames to Bulldog sweep

An eight-run, second-inning explosion by the Liberty University men’s baseball team keyed a 10-7 victory over the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs Sunday afternoon, completing a three-game sweep in which the Flames threw effective pitching, solid defense and relentless offense at a lowly conference rival.

With just under a month left in the regular season, the Flames, currently second in the Big South Conference to Coastal Carolina with a 32-12 overall record (15-3 in conference play), were not about to take it easy on the Bulldogs (now 20-23, 7-11 BSC).

Ace left-hander Shawn Teufel pitched all nine innings Friday night for the Flames, giving up just two runs on five hits and a walk, striking out eight and improving his record to 9-1 on the season with an 11-2 victory. His teammates, meanwhile, teed off against Teufel’s counterpart, Conner Scarborough, blasting him for 10 runs and 14 hits in five innings.

“We’ve had a pretty good approach to the plate,” Head Coach Jim Toman said long after the dust had settled on an 11-run, 19-hit outburst. “We’re feeling good, (we’ve been having) good weather. The guys are swinging it pretty good.”

Every starter had at least one hit, with centerfielder Curran Redal leading the way with four hits (including his third home run of the year) and three RBIs. Shortstop Matt Williams contributed three hits and three RBIs, and four others with at least two hits.

“We’re not taking any pitch for granted,” right fielder Michael Robertson said of the team’s offensive strategy.

Robertson made good on that claim the next day, when he slammed a two-on, no-out pitch from Gardner-Webb hurler Brock Wilson over the right-center field wall for his third home run of the year. The score ballooned from 1-0 to 4-0, and it was just the beginning of the second inning.

They scored again in the next frame on an RBI single by catcher Nathan Thompson to make it 5-0, and would add four more runs in the game in support of starting pitcher Steven Evans, who fought his way through six innings, giving up four runs on nine hits.

“We were hoping (Evans) could give us six or seven innings, and he did the job,” Toman said of his starter’s effort. “And the big key for him was he didn’t walk anyone.”

The Flames captured the victory on S

On winning the first two games of the series (in which the Flames amassed 20 runs on 31 hits), Robertson said, “If we don’t win the last one, the first two don’t mean anything, because we have to stay high in the ratings.”

The start of the final game of the series saw considerable winds and near-constant cloud cover, and early on, it appeared that a cloud was particularly hovering over Liberty starter Dustin Umberger.

The first three hitters he faced reached base (two singles and one double), and the next two after that both hit into outs, but both of those outs scored runs. It was 3-0 while fans were still filing into their seats.

In the bottom of the inning, the Flames tried to answer, but Williams struck out swinging with two on and two out.

Although they held Gardner-Webb scoreless in the top of the second inning, the Flames headed into the bottom of the inning looking for a shot in the arm. Little did they know what was coming.

First, second baseman P.J. Jimenez reached on an infield single. Then Thompson flied out harmlessly to center field. Gardner-Webb starting pitcher Adam Izokovic plunked two batters in a row to load the bases for Redal.  The Flames leadoff man slammed a line drive down the right field line, scoring two runners. First baseman Doug Bream smacked a line drive single down the left field line a few pitches later, scoring two more and making it 4-3 Liberty.

After another out, Bream came home on a single by Richardson. Two hitters later, Jimenez got his second hit of the inning with a booming double to left, scoring two more and making it 7-3. Another hit tacked on an additional run, and it was 8-3.

“It’s always good to see a team get eight runs (in one inning),” Jimenez said. “Some guys got to bat twice, and it helps you to see the pitcher a lot more.”

The Bulldogs attempted to come back later in the game, but, ultimately, that big inning was their undoing in a 10-7 Liberty win.

“That big inning today was the difference,” Toman said.

Sunday’s win not only nailed down the three-game sweep, but it was also Toman’s 100th win as head coach at Liberty. However, despite reaching the that mark in just his third season, the coach was not throwing any parties.

“The 100 is great,” he said. “But what we’re more concerned about right now is trying to get 40, 41, 42 wins so we have a good enough resume for the (NCAA tournament selection committee) to pick us as an at-large team.”

The Flames currently sit seven games behind Coastal, but are currently looking to Wednesday, when they play at George Mason University.

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