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Liberty Edges Bryant in Home Opener

February 27, 2015  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Tray Roberts scores the go-ahead run in the eighth inning in Liberty's 3-2 win, Friday.

Tray Roberts scores the go-ahead run in the eighth inning in Liberty's 3-2 win, Friday.

An errant pickoff attempt on a delayed steal led to two runs in the bottom of the eighth, allowing the Liberty Flames to defeat the Bryant Bulldogs, 3-2, in the Flames' home opener, Friday at Liberty Baseball Stadium.

Trailing 2-1 in the eighth and Liberty runners at the corners, pinch runner Tray Roberts headed towards second on a delayed steal with a 1-2 count on pinch hitter Derek Perry, drawing the attention of Bulldog reliever Logan Lessard. Flames right fielder Will Shepherd at third base then advanced up the line, drawing a low throw to third base from Lessard, which bounced away from Bryant third baseman John Mullen. Shepherd attempted to come home and scored as shortstop Jacob Marotta's throw also got away from the Bulldog infield and rolled down the first base line. Roberts continued running and gave the Flames a 3-2 lead, as Marotta's errant throw could not be retrieved on time to prevent the sophomore from scoring.

Reliever Shawn Clowers then pitched a scoreless ninth, stranding the tying run at second to seal the 3-2 Liberty victory.

Clowers moves to 3-0 on the year. During 3 2/3 innings of relief, the senior left-hander gave up one run on five hits. He struck out five and walked two Bulldogs.

Flames catcher Alex Close collected two hits on an afternoon.

Hits were at a premium on the afternoon. Liberty had five hits, while Bryant recorded eight in the contest. The Bulldogs left 11 and the Flames stranded 10 men.

Liberty moves to 4-3 on the season. Bryant drops to 0-4. Liberty has trailed in three out of its four victories in 2015.

Bryant took a 1-0 advantage in the second inning. With two outs, Marotta singled and came all the way around to plate a run on a double to the base of the right-center field wall by center fielder Matt Albanese.

Liberty knotted the contest in the sixth, after leaving several runners in scoring position throughout the first five innings. With one out, shortstop Dalton Britt walked. Shepherd followed with a sinking liner to left, which was dropped by left fielder A.J. Zarozny, allowing Britt to move to third base. Second baseman Nick Salisbury then grounded out to second base, scoring Britt and tying the game at 1-1.

The Bulldogs broke the tie with a run in the top of the eighth. Zarony lined a one-out double into the left field corner. Two batters later, right fielder Cole Fabio singled back through the middle of the infield to tally Zarony and put the visitors in front, 2-1.

The Flames went ahead for good during the the bottom of the inning. With one out, Shepherd walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After center fielder Aaron Stroosma grounded out to first base to move the runner to third, pinch hitter Becker Sankey walked, putting runners at the corners. Roberts came on to pinch run for Sankey at first, setting up the delay steal.

Bryant reliever James Karinchak falls to 0-2 on the year. He gave up three unearned runs on one hit. The second of three pitchers for the Bulldogs, he struck out seven and walked three Flames.

Liberty and Bryant will meet again tomorrow at Liberty Baseball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.