Liberty Flames baseball caps off weekend sweep of Marist with walk-off home run
After giving up the lead in the top of the ninth inning, the Liberty Flames baseball team (7-4) looked to Ben Highfill to stop the bleeding. The third baseman delivered, ending the game with a walk-off home run 358 feet over the left field fence, securing Sunday’s 4-3 victory and a sweep over Marist College (2-7).
The home run redeemed a disastrous start to the inning for the Flames, as relief pitcher Garret Price gave up a 3-0 lead, allowing five hits and three runs, before Highfill led off the bottom of the ninth.
“I was still stunned from the inning before,” Highfill said. “Credit to them, but we were not expecting that to happen to Garret. I was trying not to think too much or make the situation bigger than it was, and I saw a pitch down in the zone that I could hit, and it worked out.”
For Highfill, a senior, to step up in that moment is a four-year journey for a player who has earned his spot in the lineup over time.
“He didn’t play as much as he wanted to early, but now he’s reaping the reward,” Head Coach Scott Jackson said. “The game rewards you if you keep your head down and keep working. He’s our best base runner and one of our best defenders and he does a lot of good things with the bat.”
Stellar starting pitching for the Flames was key to sweeping Marist. All three weekend starters recorded five innings or more of work, allowing only four earned runs combined.
Mason Meyer recorded his first win of the season Friday, striking out seven batters compared to only one walk in the Flames 4-3 win. Garrett Wilkinson recorded his first home run for the Flames Friday, with a two-run shot to right center field.
Liberty pitching elevated even further Saturday, with starter Noah Skirrow, reliever Troy Britts and closer Landon Riley combining for a no-hitter, the first in Flames history in 20 years. Despite the no-hitter, an uncharacteristic eight walks and some sacrifice hits allowed Marist to score four runs, but the Flames secured the win 6-4 thanks to some more opportunistic sacrifice hitting by Highfill.
Joe Adametz took the mound for the Flames Sunday, looking to secure the sweep. He recorded 6.1 innings of scoreless ball before handing over to Price, who allowed three runs but still was recorded for the win after Highfill’s walk-off.
“I think we just attack,” Adametz said of the starting staff. “We aren’t afraid of anyone. We’ve all had two pitches working really well. Commanding our fastball really well and having a good breaking ball has let all of us get deep into games.”
With appearances Friday and Sunday, Price has moved to the top of the Flames record book for career appearances, with 80 in his four seasons with the Flames.
“I told him in the clubhouse, ‘You are going to keep getting the ball in those big moments,’” Jackson said. “We ask a lot of Garret Price. His numbers aren’t where he wants them to be right now, but he is going to end up with 90 or 100 appearances when he leaves here. I am proud to be his coach because of the type of kid he is and the way he represents our program.”
The Flames face a slate of games this week that will start Tuesday with the end of a nine-game home stand, as the Flames welcome Elon to Worthington Field. Liberty travels Wednesday to nationally-ranked No. 21 East Carolina before returning back home for a three-game weekend series against Kent State.
Jackson knows the team’s pitching will need to continue to elevate if he wants to keep arms fresh throughout the week.
“You win with starting pitching and having guys in the bullpen we can trust,” Jackson said. “I would like to play some games where we can extend the lead a little bit and get some other arms in there. Here come five games in seven days, so we are going to have to do that, and some of those guys are going to have to
grow up really quick.”
Wylie is the assistant sports editor. Follow him on Twitter.