The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats pushed the go-ahead run across in the top of the ninth and then stranded the tying run at second to secure a 5-4 win over the Liberty Flames, Friday evening at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
After both teams broke up a pitchers' duel with three runs apiece in the eighth, the visiting Wildcats struck for the game's winning run in the ninth inning. With one out, center fielder Josten Heron tripled and scored on a single past a drawn in infield by shortstop Demetrius Sims for a 5-4 edge.
In the bottom of the ninth, Liberty moved the tying run to second with a two-out rally, only to come up short. Pinch hitter Jack Morris drew a two-out walk and moved to second on a single by left fielder Jake Barbee, who had two hits for the Flames in the contest. However, Bethune-Cookman reliever Jospeh Calamita was able to retire the next batter to seal the Wildcats' victory.
Liberty drops to 14-10 on the season. The Flames have lost three straight for the first time this season. Bethune-Cookman improves to 19-9. Friday night's contest was the first ever meeting between the two schools on the diamond.
Flames right-hander Caleb Evans and Wildcats right-hander Anthony Maldonado locked in a pitchers' duel over the first seven innings of the contest. Evans gave up one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two. His mound opponent, Maldonado, allowed one run on two hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking two. However, neither pitcher figured in the decision.
Liberty jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the first inning. Center fielder D.J. Artis walked and stole second. Third baseman Trey McDyre, who had two hits in the contest, followed with a single to advance Artis to third. Two batters later, Artis plated the game's first run on a fielder's choice grounder by designated hitter Eric Grabowski to give the host Flames a 1-0 edge.
Liberty held its one-run advantage until the sixth, when Bethune-Cookman right fielder Kyle Corbin led off the inning with a triple. Third baseman Jameel Edney followed with a sacrifice fly to knock in Corbin, knotting the game at 1-1.
The Wildcats benefited from three errors in the top of the eighth to stake themselves to a lead. Sims walked to open the inning against Liberty reliever Jack DeGroat and advanced to third on Corbin's third hit of the contest, a single. Both runners then scored on a throwing error by Flames' third baseman McDyre on a grounder by Edney. The next Bethune-Cookman hitter, first baseman Danny Rodriguez, also reached on a throwing error by McDyre and came home on a RBI single by left fielder Adonis Lao for a 4-1 lead.
Liberty answered with three runs of its own in the bottom of the inning to tie the contest again. Artis and McDyre each walked to lead off the home half of the eighth. Barbee plated Artis with a single back through the middle of the diamond to slice the Flames' deficit to 4-2. Two batters later, second baseman Andrew Kowalo reached on an infield single to load the bases. Right fielder Will Shepherd followed with a two-out single to left field, cashing in McDyre and Barbee and deadlocking the contest at 4-4.
Liberty reliever Cody Gamble falls to 0-1 on the year. The right-hander gave up one run on two hits over 1 2/3 innings. He struck out three.
Bethune-Cookman reliever Ivan Coutinho moves to 2-1. He allowed three runs on three hits in the eighth inning. He struck out one and walked two. Calamita records his first save of the year.
The Wildcats outhit the Flames, 9-6.
Up Next: Liberty and Bethune-Cookman will meet again tomorrow at Liberty Baseball Stadium in the middle game of their non-conference series. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.