Liberty vs. Saint Francis (First game)

A late rally fell just short for the Lady Flames softball team (13-15, 2-1 Big South) as they dropped the first game of a double-header in the Liberty Softball Classic, losing to Saint Francis, 5-4, Friday, March 20 at Liberty Softball Stadium.

Liberty scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull within one run of visiting Saint Francis but left the bases loaded to end the game. The Lady Flames finished the game 2-16 with runners on base and 1-9 with runners in scoring position.

“We need to be able to execute the basic fundamentals of the game in the heat of the moment,” Lady Flames Head Coach Dot Richardson said. “If we do that, we become what I call ‘one with the ball.’ See the ball, see it in your glove, throwing it over the top, executing the fundamentals. If we just caught one ball, we would have won (this) game. … It doesn’t matter what level you reach, the team that executes the basic fundamentals of the game is usually the team that is going to win.”

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Kenzie Friesen took the loss for the Lady Flames, falling to 2-4 on the season. Friesen allowed three runs, all earned, on three hits while walking three and striking out one in just 2 2/3 innings of work. Redshirt junior Chandler Ball pitched the final 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

Right-hander Alexis Bower picked up the win for the Red Flash, allowing four runs (one earned) on six hits, while walking one and striking out five over 6 1/3 innings of work. Sophomore Ethel Santai picked up her second save of the season, walking two in 2/3 of an inning.

Saint Francis sophomore Kindra Witthus went 2-4, while freshman Madison Cabell batted 1-4 with two RBI for the Red Flash.

Liberty senior second baseman Megan Robinson went 3-3 with a double and an RBI, notching her fourth career three-hit game. Freshman Madison Kotchey was 2-3, extending her hitting streak to eight games.

Saint Francis struck early in the first after Friesen walked the first two batters she faced to begin the game.

Following a fielder’s choice, rightfielder Maggie Creciun scored when third baseman Madison Cabell grounded out to second base to give Saint Francis a 1-0 lead.

The Red Flash added to their advantage in the top of the third when senior Lindsey Reid walked to start the inning. Reid moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Creciun, then to third on a groundout by senior Taylor Parsons. With two outs, Bower helped her own cause with an RBI double to center, scoring Reid. Cabell followed by grounding a single through the left side, allowing Bowers to score from second and extending the Saint Francis lead to 3-0.

Friesen allowed a hit to the next batter that inning to put runners at the corners and was then pulled from the ballgame. Ball came on in relief and needed just one pitch to escape with no further damage.

Liberty answered in the bottom half of the third when junior Blair Lawrence reached on an error by Bowers to lead off the inning. Freshman Tori Zavodny drove a 1-1 pitch into the dirt mounds in right-center field, putting the Lady Flames on the board and cutting the deficit 3-2. It was Zavodny’s second home run in as many games and her third of the season.

The Red Flash answered back in the top of the fourth. With one out, freshman Jordan Seneca reached first when Liberty first baseman Kotchey muffed a throw from third. Seneca moved to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a single by Reid. With Creciun at the plate, Ball threw a pitch in the dirt that got behind catcher Kelby Allen, allowing Seneca to score and Reid to advance to third on the throw to the plate. Two batters later, Parsons ripped a double to left-center to score Reid and make it 5-2 Saint Francis.

The Lady Flames were held in check until the bottom of the seventh as they attempted to stage a rally. With one out, Zavodny reached on an error and advanced to second on the errant throw. Robinson followed with her third hit of the night, a sharp ground ball into left field, driving in Zavodny and making it 5-3, Red Flash. After walking Allen, Bowers moved to first base and Santai was brought in to try and shut the door, but the Lady Flames did not go quietly.

Santai walked the first batter she faced to load the bases, but forced Liberty freshman Alexia Taylor to pop out to first for the second out. Kotchey then drew a walk to bring in a run and pull the Lady Flames within one, but Santai got the next batter to ground out to end the game.

“We threatened with the bases loaded, we had our opportunities,” Richardson said. “I think (this) game describes to our players that the game is ours unless we give it away.”

The game got off to an interesting start as most of Liberty’s campus, including Liberty Softball Stadium, lost power around 4:30 p.m. Power was not restored until the top of the fourth inning, but fans were treated during the pre-game ceremonies to hearing both teams sing the national anthem in unison.

Liberty vs Princeton

Redshirt sophomore Friesen threw a complete-game three-hitter and Liberty held on to edge the Princeton Tigers, 2-1, Friday night, March 20, at Liberty Softball Stadium.

The Lady Flames split a double-header as part of the Liberty Softball Classic, capturing the second game after losing to Saint Francis, 5-4, in the earlier matchup.

“I was definitely making adjustments with my pitches and where they were moving in comparison with the first game,” Friesen said.

Friesen, who started and took the loss in the earlier game, bounced back to notch the win and moved to 3-4 on the season. She allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out three and walking three in her second complete game of the season.

“It was really impressive (for Kenzie) to do that,” Lady Flames Head Coach Richardson said. “When she came into the first game and had a couple walks and gave up (some) hits, we had to make changes. It takes a really strong mindset to be able to say, ‘OK, I’ve got this next game,’ and she finished it. … So she really did what she needed to do and we’re really proud of her.”

For Princeton, freshman right-hander Ashley LaGuardia allowed two runs on five hits with one walk and one strikeout in a losing effort.

Freshman Alexia Taylor went 2-2 with a home run for Liberty, and Zavodny doubled and scored a run. Robinson extended her hitting streak to eight games and made key plays in the field to help secure the Lady Flames victory.

“Coming in here for another game after last night, everyone was really excited,” Robinson said. “I mean, the atmosphere (at Liberty) is awesome, so just to get another chance to play and get another opportunity and make the most of it was really good.”

Senior third baseman Alyssa Schmidt accounted for the only run for the Tigers with a solo home run in the fifth inning.

After trailing for the entirety of the early contest, the Lady Flames struck first in this one, scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning to stake Friesen to an early 1-0 lead. Zavodny led off the frame by slapping a double off the glove of a diving Schmidt down the leftfield line, then advancing to third on a ground out by Robinson. With one out, Allen hit a short fly ball that was caught by Princeton shortstop Danielle Dockx a few steps onto the outfield grass. Zavodny showed off her speed by tagging up and scoring from third to give the Lady Flames the lead.

Friesen worked around an error in the top of the second and got some help from her defense. With two outs and a runner on first, Princeton sophomore Kelsey Smith hit a scalding line drive up the middle only to have Robinson dive to her right and make a tremendous back-handed stab for the third out.

Liberty added an insurance run in the bottom of the second when Taylor jumped on a 2-0 pitch and sent it over the wall in center field just below the scoreboard for her third home run of the season.

Neither team scored again until the top of the fifth, when Schmidt started the inning with her first home run of the year to put Princeton in the scoring column and trim the Lady Flames lead to 2-1.

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