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Close's 2 Home Runs Help Propel Liberty to 9-5 Win

March 27, 2015  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Alex Close is greeted at home plate after his fourth-inning grand slam.

Alex Close is greeted at home plate after his fourth-inning grand slam.

First baseman Alex Close hit two home runs and tied a career high with six RBI, helping to power the Liberty Flames past the Presbyterian Blue Hose, 9-5, Friday night in a Big South Conference contest at Liberty Baseball Stadium.

Close's two home runs were his first two of the year. The first baseman belted a two-run round tripper to knot the game at 2-2 in the third inning, and then put Liberty ahead for good with a grand slam, the second of his career, in the fifth. 

With six RBI, Close ties his career high for RBI in a game. The senior also drove in six runs in a 17-10 win at Old Dominion on April 24, 2013.

Liberty catcher Becker Sankey also hit a home run in the fifth inning, his team-leading fifth of the season. Sankey collected two hits and drove in two runs for the Flames in the contest.

Flames reliever Shawn Clowers did not allow a run over the final 5 2/3 innings to move to 6-1 on the year. The Big South leader in wins, Clowers struck out six batters and walked three.

Liberty evens it conference record at 2-2 and moves to 15-10 overall. Presbyterian drops to 1-3 in the Big South and 16-10 overall.

Presbyterian struck for two runs in the top of the second. With one out and the bases loaded, left fielder Brandon Martin dropped a two-run single into center field to give the Blue Hose a short-lived 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Liberty answered on Close's first home run of the evening. Right fielder Will Shepherd drew a one-out walk and Close followed by lifting a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall to knot the game at 2-2.

Presbyterian went back in front with three runs in the fourth. Martin walked to lead off the inning and scored on a double by second baseman Glen Casaceli for the first run of the frame. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third, an infield single by third baseman Ryan Hendrick plated Casaceli for a 4-2 advantage. Later in the inning, catcher Cam McRae provided a RBI single, giving the visitors' a 5-2 lead.

Home runs by Close and Sankey in the fifth gave Liberty a lead it would not relinquish. A walk to third baseman Jake Kimble and back-to-back bunt singles by center fielder Ashton Perritt and Shepherd loaded the bases to open the inning. Close followed by belting the first pitch of his at bat over the center field wall for a 6-5 Flames' advantage. Two batters later, Sankey hit a solo home run for a 7-5 lead.

Liberty extended its advantage with a run in the sixth. Shepherd began the inning with a bunt single, and later scored on a two-out single by Sankey for an 8-5 lead.

The Flames pushed across an additional run in the seventh. Second baseman Nick Salisbury singled to center field and moved to second on a fielding error by Presbyterian center fielder Tyler Weyenberg. A one-out fielder's choice grounder off of Shepherd's bat later plated Salisbury for what proved to be the final score of 9-5.

Presbyterian pitcher Beau Dees falls to 2-2 on the year. The left-hander gave up seven runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out six and walked three batters.

Liberty collected 12 hits. Perritt and Shepherd joined Close and Sankey with two hits each for the Flames. Presbyterian recorded 13 hits.

The two teams meet in the middle game of their three-game Big South Conference series, tomorrow. First pitch at Liberty Baseball Stadium is scheduled for 3 p.m.