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Liberty Rallies Late, Falls at No. 16 East Carolina, 8-6

March 28, 2017  Greenville, N.C.  RSS
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Sammy Taormina hit his third home run of the season, Tuesday.

Sammy Taormina hit his third home run of the season, Tuesday.

The No. 16 East Carolina Pirates raced out to an early lead and then had to hold on to defeat the Liberty Flames, 8-6, Tuesday evening at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

The Pirates built a 6-1 lead during the first two innings, only to see Liberty close to within two at 8-6 on a three-run home run by first baseman Sammy Taormina, in the eighth inning.

In the ninth, Liberty brought the tying run to the plate with one out, but ECU closer Joe Ingle was able to get the final two outs to close out the victory.           

Liberty drops to 14-9 on the year. The Flames fall for the first time in a midweek contest this season (4-1). East Carolina improves to 18-8. The Pirates have won four straight games.

The contest, which was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., was delayed 45 minutes due to lightning and 18 more minutes in the bottom of the second inning when several banks of lights at Clark-LeClair Stadium shut off.

The first three Flames to hit in the top of the first reached base. Center fielder D.J. Artis led off the contest with an infield single, designated hitter Eric Grabowski walked and left fielder Jake Barbee singled to load the bases. However, Liberty came away with only one run, as Artis scored on a ground ball double play.

East Carolina answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Center fielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton led off the Pirates' half of the inning with his second home run of the season over the left field wall, knotting the game at 1-1. ECU then used five consecutive two-out singles to plate three more runs. After first baseman Spencer Brickhouse and third baseman Eric Tyler singled, RBI base hits by left fielder Bryant Packard and shortstop Turner Brown gave the Pirates a 3-1 edge. Right fielder T.J. Riles followed with a single for a 4-1 advantage.

Williams-Sutton's second home run of the contest upped the East Carolina advantage in the second. Opening the home half of the inning, the Pirates' center fielder homered to left field for the first multiple home run game of his career and a 5-1 lead. After the delay for the light outage, East Carolina added another run in the inning on a RBI single by Tyler, who had three hits on the night, for a 6-1 advantage.

Liberty plated a two-out run in the third. Third baseman Trey McDyre drew a walk and scored on a double into the right-center field gap by second baseman Andrew Kowalo for the Flames' second run of the contest.

The Pirates extended their lead with two runs in the sixth. A sacrifice fly by Tyler and a single by Packard gave ECU an 8-2 advantage.

In the seventh, Liberty pushed across a run. Kowalo drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on two wild pitches. Shortstop Cam Locklear then plated Kowalo with a ground out to make it, 8-3 East Carolina.

Liberty cut into the Pirates' lead in the eighth. Grabowski opened the inning with a single, his second hit of the night, and Barbee followed with his second hit of the contest, also a single. After ECU left fielder Packard robbed catcher Matt Allen of a home run, Taormina blasted an offering from left-hander Hunter Hood over the right field wall, trimming the Flames' deficit to 8-6.

In the ninth, Liberty was able to bring the tying run to the plate. Locklear was hit by a pitch by Pirates' reliever Matt Bridges with one out. Ingle then entered and retired the next two batters to seal the victory for the host team.

Liberty starting pitcher Zander Clouse falls to 1-1 on the year. The right-hander allowed six runs on eight hits over 1 1/3 innings. He struck out one and did not walk a batter.

Pirates starting pitcher Jacob Wolfe improves to 3-2. The right-hander gave up two runs on four hits over the first five innings. He struck out four and walked five batters.

Ingle records his second save of the year.

Liberty collected seven hits in the contest. East Carolina had 16.

Up Next: Liberty returns to Liberty Baseball Stadium for a weekend series against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. The non-conference series get underway, Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.