flame train rolls through asun opponents

The Liberty Flames baseball team continued its recent hot streak, taking two out of three games on the road against the ASUN’s top team in Kennesaw State before heading back to Lynchburg to sweep North Florida. 

The Flames traveled to Kennesaw, Georgia, in a battle against the ASUN’s top team, and won each of the first two games handily, including game two which lasted just seven innings as the Flames drubbed the Owls 18-3. 

The series lasted just two days, with game three of the series being pushed to April 15 due to inclement weather. The Flames would then split the doubleheader, losing the series finale in an offensive battle, 9-8. 

The Flames entered the weekend at 7-5 in conference play, right behind the Owls who were 10-2 and first place in the ASUN East division. 

The series was an encouraging one for the Flames in many ways, particularly offensively. Liberty managed to score an absurd 35 runs in just the three games, their highest in an ASUN series this season before setting a new season-high against North Florida just one week later. 

Looking to keep pace with Kennesaw State in the ASUN East division, the Flames took on conference opponent North Florida in a three-game series April 22-24. 

The Flames brought their hot bats with them back to Lynchburg, as they won game one of the series 22-4, setting a season-high for runs scored and hits, with 20. 

Redshirt-senior infielder Brady Gulakowski led the way, hitting three home runs and eight RBIs, both career-highs. 

The Flames also got help from their pitching, as freshman pitcher Garrett Horn struck out eight batters in just six innings. 

The Flame train kept rolling into game two, as Liberty won 5-4 behind seven strong innings from starting pitcher Dylan Cumming. 

The turning point perhaps came in the top of the sixth inning, when Liberty held a 5-2 advantage and North Florida had runners on first and second with no outs. 

In front of former players in attendance for alumni day, as well as dogs for “bark in the park,” Cumming showed off his defensive skills, sprinting off the mound to catch a bunt in the air, before tossing the ball to first baseman Logan Mathieu to cap off a double play that killed any momentum North Florida had. 

The Ospreys threatened to take the lead trailing 5-4 with two outs and runners on first and second in the top of the ninth, but relief pitcher Mason Fluharty got out of the jam with a strike out to win the game for Liberty. 

After getting strong efforts from their starting pitching in games one and two, the Flames offense had to grind out a 10-9 victory to complete the sweep despite four different lead changes throughout the game. 

The offense was led by freshman infielder Cameron Foster, who recorded a game-high three hits and three RBIs. 

Following a 15-game stretch in which they went just 6-9, the Flames have rebounded nicely, going 9-2 in their last 11 games, including 8-1 in ASUN play. 

Through 38 games, the Flames currently sit at 26-12 and 12-5 in ASUN play, just one game behind Kennesaw State for first place in the ASUN East and the best record in conference play. 

Despite the rough patch in the middle of the season, freshman pitcher Garrett Horn remained confident the team would bounce back. 

“We hit a little bit of a slump, and the biggest thing that Coach (Scott) Jackson always talks about when it starts going bad is if we all come together, we can’t split. We all have to stay together,” Horn said. 

While they’ve done a nice job of staying together, the Flames still have work to do, starting with a five-game road trip against North Carolina, Stetson and Wake Forest.

MCCUSKER is the asst. sports editor. Follow him on Twitter

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