Flames ace Adams strikes out 11 on 22nd birthday
On his 22nd birthday, Caleb Adams dominated early as the Flames defeated Bryant University in a low-scoring affair.
Adams, who started the game for Liberty (7-4), had everything working from the onset, cruising through the Bryant (3-7) lineup for six scoreless innings while striking out 11 on the way to a 3-1 victory.
After surrendering back-to-back singles in the first inning, Adams settled in and only allowed one more hit the rest of the day.
His fastball consistently struck the mitt of catcher Matt Allen at 91 mph, but what made the pitch even more effective was his ability to direct it.
“I just tried to attack with my fastball throughout the day,” Adams said after notching his second win of the season.
“That’s my best pitch, and I was just moving it side-to-side, and it was successful for me.”
His fastball and effective use of secondary pitches limited the Bryant lineup to just three hits the entire afternoon.
According to Head Coach Scott Jackson, those kinds of results are just the product of Adams’ personal growth as a player.
“His maturation’s been unbelievable,” Jackson said.
“Just to watch where he was in the fall, and to really just minimize opportunities for the other team was a big point of emphasis with him. He’s got a little moxie to him now, and that’s something that (pitching coach Bryant) Gaines has asked him to do, and it showed up today on his birthday. He gets ahead of hitters and pretty much controlled six innings worth for us, and that’s all you can ask out of a starter.”
Liberty got the scoring started in the second inning when freshman shortstop Cam Locklear collected his fourth RBI of the year on a ground out deep in the hole to short.
The run was set up by a leadoff walk by third baseman Dylan Allen, who advanced to third after a line drive single to right center by left fielder Jake Barbee.
Locklear was then able to put together a quality at-bat to plate the run.
Senior right fielder Will Shepherd led off the bottom of the fourth with a ringing opposite field double that split the gap.
He later came around to score on an RBI ground-out by second baseman Andrew Kowalo — his fourth of the year.
The Flames scored their third and final run of the day an inning later when Shepherd drove in his team-high fifth RBI with a two-out single to score senior first baseman Sammy Taormina.
Liberty was not able to string together much on offense, but Jackson was pleased by his players capitalizing on the few opportunities they had.
“Just to be able to have some opportunities to score is something that we’ve been looking for because it’s been tough for us the last two or three games to be able to create our own opportunities,” Jackson said.
“I’ve told our guys to keep their heads down, and it’s not about getting hits, it’s just about having a good at-bat. Let’s see how many times we can do that up and down the order and string some together. We did that today. Do we have to be better? Yeah. But we’re certainly going to take three runs.”
Bryant threatened in the top of the eighth after getting back-to-back base hits to start the frame by freshman outfielder Ryan Ward and junior catcher Mickey Gasper.
After a strikeout of freshman infielder Jimmy Titus, sophomore outfielder Nick Angelini pushed a groundball single through the right side of the infield, bringing in Ward to score.
However, Angelini made a crucial base-running mistake trying to get to second base on the ball thrown in from the outfield and was tagged out in the process.
He would have represented the tying run with just one out in the inning. But, freshman Garret Price – who was pitching for Liberty at that point – was able to escape any further damage by inducing a ground-out to the following batter to end the inning.
Price then had a flawless ninth to notch his first collegiate save and Liberty’s seventh win of the season.
This day, though, was all about Adams, who Jackson said has really solidified himself in the rotation.
“He’s put himself in position now, after three good outings, where we expect a lot out of him,” Jackson said.
The win was the second of the weekend for the Flames, who defeated Bryant 4-1 Friday, March 3.
The Bulldogs got their revenge, however, taking the final game of the series 9-6
Sunday, March 5.
The loss puts the Flames at 7-4 with five games left before conference play begins.
Liberty begins a three-game series at home against St. Johns March 10th at 3 p.m.