Fueled by a no-no, Flames take series

Release — Pitcher Julia DiMartino threw a no-hitter in the first game against GWU. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Release — Pitcher Julia DiMartino threw a no-hitter in the first game against GWU. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Game 1: Liberty 1 Gardner-Webb 0

Freshman pitcher Julia DiMartino pitched her second no-hitter of the season as the Lady Flames took the first game of an evening doubleheader against the Gardner-Webb University Bulldogs 1-0 Friday, April 29 at Kamphuis Field.

DiMartino struck out nine Bulldog batters and walked only one. She is the fourth pitcher in Lady Flames history to record multiple no-hitters in a season.

“It feels pretty good (to throw a no-hitter),” DiMartino said. “I know I had my team behind me because I couldn’t do it without them.”

Lady Flames Head Coach Dot Richardson said performances like DiMartino’s are nothing new for the Lady Flames star pitcher.

“Julia has really been on all season,” Richardson said. “She gets a lot of swing and misses, and that’s what you love to have in the circle. She’s really throwing well.”

The game was a duel between the pitchers, as junior Bulldog pitcher Summer Darnell only gave up one hit to the Lady Flames.

“The offense wasn’t there in the first game, but the realization is we hit the ball,” Richardson said.

“I think we went to the warning track five or six times. Sometimes when pitchers are throwing slower like that, (batters) have to generate all the power. If you miss the ball a little bit, that will cost you hitting it over (the wall).”

The only offense of the game came in the bottom of the second inning from the Lady Flames.

Darnell walked both freshman right fielder Deidra See and senior first baseman Katie Han with two outs.

Senior third baseman Kassidy McCoy stepped to the plate and hit an RBI single up the middle that scored See from second base.

“It’s important to take advantage of those situations and do what you can,” McCoy said. “Coach (Richardson) told us to be the one at the plate (to make a play). Don’t wait for the person behind you to do it.”

The win gave the Lady Flames their 14th Big South Conference win of the year, breaking the program record of 13 set in 2010.

Game 2: Liberty 4 Gardner-Webb 1

DiMartino’s dominance on the mound earned her the start for the second game of the doubleheader. She pitched the first three and one-third innings, giving up one run on five hits.

She was relieved by fellow freshman pitcher Chase Cassady, who struck out four Bulldogs and did not give up a hit in three and two-thirds innings of work.

“I’m really excited to see that Chase Cassady is stepping it up, because she has really been working hard,” Richardson said.

The Lady Flames struck first in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single from McCoy that scored freshman second baseman Rylee Reynolds to take the 1-0 lead.

The one run for the Bulldogs came on a solo shot over the left-field wall from junior shortstop Megan Gibbons in the top of the fourth inning.

The Lady Flames extended their lead in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double from Reynolds that scored freshman shortstop Sarah Robertson to make the score 3-0.

The final run for the Lady Flames came in the bottom of the seventh. With designated player Jaclyn Amader on second, sophomore center fielder Tori Zavodny bunted, and the Bulldogs misplayed the ball, allowing Amader to score.

Game 3: Liberty 4 Gardner-Webb 0

The Liberty women’s softball team shut out Gardner-Webb 4-0 in its regular season finale April 30 on a gloomy day to complete the series sweep on senior night.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs dropped their 11th straight game falling to 18-32 and 4-17 in conference play. Liberty gained its 30th win to finish the season 30-26 with a 16-8 conference record.

The Lady Flames held Gardner-Webb to just one run for the weekend series, clinching the record for the fewest total runs ever allowed by Liberty in a three-game Big South series.

“I got very emotional, and to see them emotional as well, you knew how much it meant to them,” Richardson said. “I started tearing up, but I realized there is no crying in softball.”

After a few tears were shed, the Lady Flames took to the field and continued the dominance they had displayed in the first two games.

Senior pitcher Chandler Ball took command of the circle, pitching her second shutout of the season, holding the Runnin’ Bulldogs to just three hits for the game.

In the bottom of the second, Liberty got on the board when Han hit an infield single and advanced to second after a sacrifice bunt. Senior shortstop Mickey Loveridge then hit a single to right field, plating Han to give Liberty the 1-0 lead.

The third inning saw Liberty plate three more runs to push the lead to 4-0.

Darnell kept the Lady Flames cold for the rest of the game, and Ball retired the last five batters to seal the shutout.

“It’s big to have all three of these wins to sweep Gardner-Webb,” Richardson said. “You always want to have that good feeling when you go into the biggest tournament of the season.”

The pitching has been a constant for the Flames success with the postseason right around the corner, and Richardson was pleased with the pitching across the board for the series.

“It’s really important to get Chandler doing what she was doing today, which is keeping the drop low, keeping the change up low,” Richardson said. “Chase, to come in like she did in the previous game that we had last night, it was great to see her keeping the ball in the zone and hitting it to a pitcher’s zone and not the batter’s zone.”

The Lady Flames travel next to Terry Field in Rock Hill, South Carolina for the 2016 Big South Softball Championship held May 4-11.

“We’ve had that goal from the beginning to win Big South,” Han said. “We’re really versatile, and we have a lot of talent.”

Dillard is the asst. sports editor.

Collier is a sports reporter.

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