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Lady Flames Fall to Panthers in Regular-Season Finale

May 5, 2007  Birmingham, Ala.  RSS
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Shannon McKain was 2-for-3 in Liberty's regular-season finale against Birmingham-Southern.

Shannon McKain was 2-for-3 in Liberty's regular-season finale against Birmingham-Southern.

Birmingham-Southern scored two runs in the first and left the rest of the game in the hands of pitcher Raquel Sanfiel as the senior tossed a three-hit shutout in her final career home game, giving the Panthers a 2-0 Senior Day win over Liberty, Saturday afternoon, at BSC Softball Park. 

With the loss, the Lady Flames conclude their regular-season schedule with a 36-24 overall record and an 11-4 mark in Big South Conference action, tying a school record for conference wins during a year. Liberty also won 11 games during the 1999 season.

With the 11 league wins, the Lady Flames have secured a first-round bye in the upcoming Big South Softball Championship. However, Liberty will have to wait for the conclusion of the Winthrop-Radford three-game series later this weekend to figure out its seeding. 

The Eagles, who enter the weekend with a 9-3 record, will need to take all three games from Radford, who boasts of an 8-4 record, in order to secure the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed. Should Winthrop drop a single game, Liberty will secure the No. 1 seed. 

The Eagles host the Highlanders for two games on Sunday and a final game on Monday. The first game on Sunday will be televised live on ESPNU, marking the conference's first-ever nationally-televised softball game. 

The homestanding Panthers took the lead as Birmingham-Southern plated two runs on two hits and capitalized on a costly Liberty error, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first. 

Melissa Muehlenfeld started the game with a lined single off the glove off Courtney Johnson at third base. Brooke Reed attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but starting pitcher Sarah Ellis' throw to first was errant, allowing the shortstop to reach first. 

After back-to-back groundouts, Heather Fox drew a walk to load the bases, setting the stage for Melissa Taunton to hit a two-run single to right, scoring Muehlenfeld and Reed to give the Panthers an early two-run lead. 

The Lady Flames looked like they might get on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth inning as Shannon McKain led off the frame with a single up the middle. Jessica Moore and Ashley Williams drew walks to load the bases with no outs. 

But Sanfiel caught Beth Bennett looking for a strikeout, followed by Sarah Swor lining into a double play as the designated player stroked one to third which was snagged by Heather Fox, who was able to tag pinch runner Rachel Love and end the threat. 

Sarah Ellis suffered the loss as the sophomore falls to 12-8 on the year after allowing a pair of unearned runs on two hits and four walks during two-plus innings of work. Terra Lowe tossed four innings of effective relief as she allowed two hits and fanned six during four innings. 

Sanfiel scattered the three hits over seven innings of work, walking three and striking out four to record her third shutout of the year and up her record to 8-15. 

McKain led the Lady Flames from the plate, getting two of Liberty's three hits as she was 2-for-3, while Dawn Jeffs got the other remaining hit as she was 1-for-3. 

The Lady Flames will return to the softball diamond on Thursday when they open up play at the 2007 Big South Softball Championship in Conway, S.C., hosted by Coastal Carolina. The three-day tournament begins on Thursday and concludes on Saturday with the victor receiving the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals.