Flame Train rolls over Lancers

Ryan Seiz stays hot, going 7-12 with two home runs in Liberty’s three-game sweep against Longwood

Liberty 10, Longwood 4
The Liberty Flames (29-8, 14-1 Big South) baseball team found itself in unfamiliar territory in a series-opening matchup with the Longwood University Lancers (14-23, 4-11 Big South) Friday, April 11.

After the Flames jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a first-inning Ryan Seiz single, the Lancers responded just as quickly in the bottom half of the inning. First came a leadoff double. A sharp single followed. A double play turned by second-baseman Seiz and shortstop Dalton Britt killed the developing rally, but the damage was done.

Sprint — Nick Lacik runs to first base. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Sprint — Nick Lacik runs to first base. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Only three hitters into the game, the Flames streak of 60 and 2/3 straight scoreless innings against Big South opponents was snapped, the game tied at one.

Flames senior starting pitcher Trey Lambert hoped to settle down in the second inning, but a leadoff triple soon found the alley in right field. Two batters later, an RBI groundout from Longwood’s Marc McCafferty made it a 2-1 Lancers lead.

“We might have come in today too relaxed and just kind of got comfortable,” Lambert said. “Things weren’t as easy today, so you just have to grind and have faith in the guys to put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.”

As the early innings wore on, both teams continued to scratch out runs one at a time. Flames leadoff hitter Nick Lacik drew a walk to begin the third inning and later scored on a fielder’s choice ground ball to third hit by Becker Sankey, but Danny Grauer later left the bases loaded and the game tied at two.

In the bottom of the third, Lambert surrendered two straight singles to Longwood’s Matt Dickason and Kyri Washington. The Lancers took a one-run lead on an RBI double to center by Brandon Delk, but the Flames again minimized the damage on the play by throwing out Washington at the plate by 10 feet.

In a game that featured almost exclusively one-run innings — the teams combined for nine of them — the Flames finally broke the game open in the fifth inning, taking advantage of sloppy play by Longwood to send 10 hitters to the plate and score five runs. Seiz began the rally with one out by taking a fastball to the ribs, and a barrage of singles, walks, stolen bases and errors kept the line moving to create a 7-3 Liberty lead.

“We knew that the offense needed to come through today,” Seiz said. “… It’s nice to know that our offense is capable of doing that when our pitching isn’t there necessarily.”

Lambert, who owned a 23-inning scoreless streak of his own before Friday’s start, had more success his second time through the Lancers lineup, relying heavily on his fastball. He finished the day with seven strikeouts and eight hits allowed in seven innings of work, moving his record to 8-1.

“It was not an easy day on the mound,” Lambert said. “There was a lot of difference from the last two weeks. It’s unbelievable to see the guys come out week after week and just pound the ball.”

Solo home runs by Sankey and Seiz added to the Flames lead in the later innings, and a ninth-inning insurance run made it a 10-4 Flames win.

“They swung the bat very well, especially the top-of-the-order guys,” Flames Head Coach Jim Toman said. “Lambert didn’t have his greatest stuff. He had to battle through it just to get through seven innings. And obviously he didn’t have his best stuff, but you give credit to Longwood’s hitters.”

Friday night’s win marked the first of five straight games for Liberty, a stretch that will test the team’s pitching depth, according to Toman. With usual Saturday starter Carson Herndon unavailable due to injury, the Flames looked to lefthander Blake Fulghum to face the Lancers Saturday.

Liberty 8, Longwood 5
Liberty continued its dominance in Big South play, improving to 13-1 in conference and collecting an 8-5 victory against Longwood Saturday, April 12.

Fulghum gained his third win of the season and pitched his first complete game of his Liberty career, striking out three giving up 11 hits and four earned runs, while walking four.
In the top of the first, the Flames jumped out to a 2-0 lead. After Lacik singled and right fielder Will Shepherd grounded out, advancing Lacik to second, Seiz singled to right field to drive Lacik home. Due to a Longwood error, Seiz safely got to third and was brought home on a Sankey sacrifice fly.

The Lancers answered with a run in the first inning and took a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth on Dickason’s RBI double and Delk’s RBI single to
center field.

big hits — Andrew Yacyk has 12 RBIs this season. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Big hits — Andrew Yacyk has 12 RBIs this season. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

In the next inning, Liberty came within one when Seiz hit his second solo home run of the series for his ninth of the season. After a shaky four innings, Fulghum settled down and held the Lancers to one hit for the rest of the game.

Liberty regained its lead in the top of the sixth, pushing three runs across home plate. With two outs, Longwood pitcher Brandon Vick unraveled and walked two consecutive batters, forcing the Lancers to bring Aaron Myers in from the bullpen. With the bases loaded on a 1-0 count, Shepherd singled to center field to bring two runs home. A third run went across home plate after another fielding error by Longwood.

With a 7-5 lead, Sankey gave the Flames an insurance run on his second sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth inning to push the final score to 8-5.

Liberty 6, Longwood 1
Liberty completed its three-game sweep against Longwood Sunday, April 13, defeating the Lancers 6-1. The Flames mustered five runs in a sixth inning that was highlighted by a three-run home run by Grauer.

Pitcher Parker Bean threw his first complete game, collecting 11 strikeouts and allowing five hits, one run and a walk. Bean did not surrender a hit until the bottom of the fifth inning.

For the first five innings, the Flames struggled to garner any offense against Myers. However, Liberty began to manage some offensive production against Myers in the top of the sixth inning. Longwood committed two errors to begin the inning, and Seiz scored on a sacrifice fly from Britt. With one out, after Myers walked Close, Grauer launched a three-run home run over the left-field wall, giving Liberty a 4-0 lead.

Mitchell Kuebbing relieved Myers but also struggled, walking his first batter and hitting another later in the inning. With two outs, Shepherd brought home another run, increasing the Flames lead to five.

Bean continued to mow down batters until Delk smashed a solo home run to left field. After the home run, Bean pitched two more innings to solidify Liberty’s victory.

Liberty will host James Madison Tuesday, April 15 at 6 p.m.

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