Baseball shell shocked

Terrapins take down Flames with ninth-inning comeback

Hustle — Third baseman Sammy Taormina rounds the bases against Maryland. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Hustle — Third baseman Sammy Taormina rounds the bases against Maryland. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Despite leading the No. 22 Maryland Terrapins (27-11, 8-4 Big Ten) heading into the final out of the game Wednesday, April 15, defensive breakdowns ultimately led to a loss for the Liberty baseball team (25-15, 11-4 Big South).

With two batters retired in the top of the ninth inning on a fly out and ground out and only one out needed to seal a 4-3 win, the Flames gave up three more runs, allowing Maryland to complete the comeback and ultimately win 6-4.

Maryland junior catcher Kevin Matir jumpstarted the Terrapins ninth-inning rally with a double, eventually advancing to third as junior third baseman Jose Cuas reached on an error from Flames third baseman Jake Kimble. Junior right fielder Anthony Papio followed with an RBI single to score Matir and tie up the game at four runs apiece.

Flames pitcher/first baseman Alex Close then hit Maryland senior pinch hitter Tim Lewis and walked two more batters to allow two more runs.

“I felt fine (pitching at that point),” Alex Close said. “I wasn’t worried at all until they tied it. I honestly didn’t think it was getting away, and then it got away.”

In the bottom of the ninth, Alex Close tried to bring his Flames back with a leadoff single, but Maryland junior right-handed pitcher Kevin Mooney struck out the final three batters for the Flames.

In addition to defensive miscues, the Flames went cold offensively after jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first three innings. In the second inning, sophomore designated hitter Andrew Yacyk singled and later scored on a double to left field from senior second baseman Clay Keranen. Junior shortstop Dalton Britt notched an RBI and added the Flames second run of the game, plating Keranen on a two-out double.

In the bottom of the third, the Flames added to their lead. Yacyk again singled, and freshman left fielder Josh Close doubled to put runners in scoring position. Keranen added two more runs for Liberty when he singled to plate Yacyk and Josh Close.

According to Alex Close, the Flames suffered when they took the pressure off offensively.

“They were throwing different guys, they threw some good arms, but you can never take your foot off the pedal,” Alex Close said.

The Flames finished the game with 12 hits, while the Terrapins only came up with seven, which proved to be enough. Alex Close, the fifth of six Liberty pitchers in the game, recorded the loss.

“That was a huge game,” Alex Close said. “That’s up there as one of the biggest games I think we’ve had since I’ve been here, so I think it’s just frustration from everyone about not winning it.”

According to Flames Head Coach Jim Toman, who talked to his team for more than 20 minutes following the game, his team simply missed opportunities to put the game away.

“If we just play like we can, the game’s over (and we win),” Toman said. “… That was a tough one to take, but you got to play nine innings, you got to get 27 outs, and we couldn’t get that last one. … Had we not let them score runs in the fifth and the sixth, then maybe we still hang on there at the end. We played pretty well, we just didn’t finish.”

Weekend Recap Following the disappointing midweek loss, the Flames bounced back when they traveled to Farmville, Virginia, to take on the Longwood Lancers (17-21, 5-10 Big South) Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19. The Flames took two of three games to win the series.

The Flames were victorious in the first game of the series, winning 7-4, thanks in large part to the pitching of junior lefthander Victor Cole, the reigning Big South Pitcher of the Week. Cole allowed only two unearned runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings, struck out eight batters and improved his record to 5-1 on the year.

After scoring a run without recording a hit in the first inning, Liberty jumped out to a 4-0 lead on catcher Becker Sankey’s three-run homer — his 10th home run of the year — in the fourth inning. In the bottom of the same inning, the Lancers struck back and scored two of their own to put the score at 4-2.

Liberty added three insurance runs in the top of the eighth, ultimately putting the game out of reach for the Lancers. Though the Lancers threatened in the ninth with two runs off senior reliever Ashton Perritt, Alex Close redeemed his midweek performance against Maryland when he earned the final out of the game on three pitches. Alex Close earned his fourth save of the year in the game.

In the second game of the series, the Flames blasted the Lancers for 11 runs — including seven in the fourth inning — on 15 hits, winning 11-3.

Sankey added his 11th home run of the year in the game — his second in as many games — to become the current Big South home run leader. Britt recorded his fourth three-hit game of the year. He also gave the Flames two runs and notched two RBIs.

In the final game of the week and the second game of the doubleheader, the Lancers put an end to the Flames four-game conference winning streak, handing Liberty a 7-4 loss.

The Flames went up 3-0 in the second inning, but the Lancers tied it up in the third on a two-run single and an RBI sacrifice fly. In the bottom of the fourth, the Lancers took the lead 4-3.

Though the Flames were able to even the score again at 4-4 in the fifth inning, the Lancers eventually went up for good after scoring three runs in the sixth inning.

The Flames will travel to Charlottesville, Virginia, looking to avenge a March 25 home loss when they take on the University of Virginia (UVA) Cavaliers Wednesday, April 22 at 6 p.m. UVA currently holds a 24-15 overall record, including a 9-12 conference record. The Cavaliers are only 6-9 in home contests.

BROWN is the editor-in-chief.

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