Softball sweeps ASUN foe Governors

After a historic win over the Clemson Tigers on April 26, the Lady Flames strutted into their final ASUN home series against the Austin Peay Governors with undeniable momentum. 

With a 13-5 ASUN record and 31-17 overall, redemption was on the mind of Liberty, seeking to improve upon a series loss the previous weekend against the No. 1 ASUN Central Arkansas Bears. 

The Flames didn’t have to search long for dominance in game one of the series, which began with Liberty bringing four runs home in the first inning. 

Half of those runs came from the hitter with the team’s highest batting average, sophomore outfielder KK Madrey. While the Governors scored two runs in the top of the third inning, junior infielder Sierra Kersten brought Madrey home in the bottom of the third to extend the lead to 5-3. 

Elite pitching in the circle from Flames junior pitcher Karlie Keeney fended off the Governors. As the game came to a 6-3 final, Keeney earned the win, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits, walking two and striking out one. 

The Governors attempted to enforce their dominance and spoil Liberty’s Senior Night in game two, scoring two runs in the first inning of what would become a sheer slugfest. After numerous errors, however, the Lady Flames jumped ahead to a 3-2 lead. Madrey scored two out of the three runs in the inning, in which Liberty tallied five hits. 

Austin Peay, with a mere two hits, brought their bats in the third inning. A two-run bomb from infielder Gabi Apiag allowed the Governors to surpass the Flames in thrilling fashion.   

“(Our girls) need to keep doing what they are doing,” Flames Head Coach Dot Richardson told media mid-game. “We must keep them off the bases, rip the cover off the ball and get runs. We need to hit the body off the ball. Senior night is a very emotional day for my three seniors, Emily Estroff, Devyn Howard and Caroline Hudson, but we need to keep that emotion in play with them and focus on the game.” 

Junior outfielder Mary Claire Wilson did just that, roping a two-out RBI double to tie the game at 5-5. Just one inning later, Wilson launched a three-run home run to propel her team forward to a 9-5 advantage. While both teams continued to duel back and forth, an 11-7 final gave the ladies the Senior Night success they were hoping for.  

In the series finale, Liberty simply imposed its will on the Governors. Back-to-back home runs from sophomore infielder Rachel Craine and junior infielder Megan Fortner in the third pushed Liberty to a daunting 7-1 lead in the fourth inning. In the following inning, the Flames ran away with the contest, with a moon shot from sophomore outfielder Rachel Roupe sealing the series sweep with a three-run home run, extending the lead to a final of 11-2.

As the home stretch to the ASUN tournament continues, Liberty is now 3-1 all-time against Austin Peay in softball. Every Liberty batter in the lineup on Saturday had at least one multi-hit game in the doubleheader, with Hudson, Roupe and Wilson notching multiple hits in both games. 

The Lady Flames will close out their home slate May 3 at 6 p.m., welcoming the Virginia Tech Hokies to the Mountain for a Commonwealth clash.  

Cote is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion

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