Flames fall to Devils
Teams combine for 25 hits as Duke tops Liberty at home
ll team fell 8-7 in a midweek matchup against the Duke Blue Devils Tuesday, April 19, at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
The two teams combined for 25 hits as momentum swung back and forth throughout the game in front of a crowd of 3,878, the largest crowd of the season and second-highest in program history for the Flames.
Inconsistency plagued the Flames again, as they recorded 12 hits, but walked eight Blue Devil batters and hit two of them in the batter’s box, while giving up 13 hits.
Flames Head Coach Jim Toman was not pleased with his team’s performance.
“It’s tough to swallow when you’re swinging it well today, and you’re just not getting the pitching,” Toman said.
“We’re just kind of good enough to hang with teams. You can’t walk eight guys in a college baseball game and hit two and give up 13 hits. That’s way too many baserunners. They could have scored a lot more.”
The Flames offense began in the bottom half of the first inning. Junior first baseman Andrew Yacyk hit a groundout to second, scoring freshman left fielder D.J. Artis from third base to give the Flames an early 1-0 lead.
The Blue Devils immediately responded in the top of the second.
Sophomore second baseman Max Miller knocked an RBI single into the outfield that scored sophomore right fielder Peter Zyla to tie the game 1-1.
With the bases loaded, Flames junior pitcher Parker Bean walked freshman catcher Chris Proctor to give the Blue Devils the 2-1 lead.
Bean forced sophomore third baseman Jack Labosky to hit a flyout to left field for the third out of the inning to avoid any further damage.
The Flames capitalized on a Blue Devil error in the bottom of the second to regain the lead.
With the bases loaded, senior designated hitter Austin Bream hit a grounder to third that went right past Labosky’s glove into the outfield, scoring sophomore right fielder Josh Close from third and freshman center fielder Jack Morris from second, taking the lead 3-2.
The Blue Devils tied the game 3-3 in the top of the third on an RBI single from sophomore left fielder Michael Smiciklas that scored sophomore first baseman Justin Bellinger.
Junior Flames pitcher Eric Grabowski hit the first two Blue Devil batters, Proctor and freshman center fielder Jimmy Herron, to start the top of the fourth.
They both plated on a two-RBI double by Labosky the next at-bat, extending the Blue Devil lead to 5-3.
The Flames took back the momentum in the bottom of the fourth, recording five straight two-out singles that led to runs by Artis, Bream and junior second baseman Will Shepherd to take a 6-5 lead.
“We never feel out of the game,” Flames senior shortstop Dalton Britt said. “We had momentum there. Momentum was going the whole time.”
The Blue Devils answered again in the top of the fifth on a two-RBI single by Labosky that scored Herron and junior designated hitter Cris Perez to again regain the lead with a score of 7-6.
The Flames tied the contest at 7-7 in the bottom half of the fifth on an RBI single from Artis that scored sophomore third baseman Josh Barrick.
The Blue Devils would not go away and took the lead for good in the top of the sixth inning on a home run by Bellinger that was blasted over the centerfield wall to take the lead 8-7.
The Flames almost extended the game in the bottom of the ninth. With Britt on third and two outs, Barrick stepped to the plate and hit a groundout on the first pitch he saw, ending the Flames’ hopes of a comeback.
“It’s tough losing games like that where it’s back and forth the whole game,” Britt said. “We just couldn’t come through with the last big hit.”
Regardless of the tough loss, Toman refuses to quit on his team as they head into the final stretch of the season before the Big South Conference tournament.
“I like these guys,” Toman said. “They work extremely hard, and they’re good kids, and I think something good is going to happen to them cause they work hard.”
The Flames will play in-state rival Virginia Tech Tuesday, April 26 at Liberty Baseball Stadium at 7 p.m.
Dillard is a sports reporter.