Right-hander Mason Hand's strong relief performance allowed the Liberty Flames to overcome an early three-run deficit for a 6-5 victory over the Richmond Spiders, Tuesday at Pitt Field.
Hand entered the contest with no one outs in the second inning and went on to pitch eight scoreless innings. The freshman, 1-0, records his first collegiate win, allowing three hits and striking out four. He did not walk a batter. After hitting a batter to open the Richmond third, Hand retired 16 straight batters, before a one-out single in the eighth.
The right-hander's performance allowed the Flames to erase a 5-2 Spider lead with four unanswered runs for the win.
Liberty center fielder D.J. Artis hit his second home run of the year in the contest.
The Flames have won four of their last five games and raise their record to 19-12 on the year. The Spiders drop to 17-14.
The Spiders took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. With one out, shortstop Vinny Capra beat out an infield single and first baseman Kyle Adams and third baseman Tyler Plantier each walked, loading the bases. Left fielder D.J. Lee followed with a two-run single for an early advantage for the host team. Richmond then plated a two-out run, when Liberty shortstop Cam Locklear dropped a throw from catcher Jonathan Embry attempting to catch Lee stealing, allowing Plantier to come home with the third run of the frame.
The Flames countered with two runs in the top of the second. The first three batters of the inning reached. First baseman Dylan Allen walked, designated hitter Logan Mathieu singled and Locklear was safe on an error by Spider third baseman Plantier. Embry followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Allen with the first run of the inning. After right fielder Brandon Rohrer walked to fill the bases again, Mathieu scored on a wild pitch, shaving the Liberty deficit to one run at 3-2.
In the bottom of the second, the Spiders answered with two runs of their own. Designated hitter Tim Miller singled and came around to score on a triple by center fielder Anthony Forte for a 4-2 edge. Right fielder Sage Bruhl followed with a run-scoring ground out to stretch the Richmond lead back to three at 5-2.
After Liberty inched closer on Artis' home run in the fifth, the Flames knotted the contest in the top of the sixth. Mathieu, who had two hits and scored twice, led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a one-out walk to Embry. Both runners then moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, before Mathieu scored on a fielder's choice grounder by right fielder Ayden Karraker, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth, cutting their deficit to one at 5-4. Third baseman Tyler Galazin, who also entered the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth, followed with a sacrifice to bring home Embry, tying the game at 5-5.
Liberty went in front in the seventh on a Spider error. Second baseman Trey McDyre walked and left fielder Tre Todd, who had two hits, singled to open the inning. With it looking like Richmond might get out of the frame after the next two batters were retired, Locklear bounced a ground ball towards second, which Spider second baseman Daniel Brumbaugh played, but overthrew to first, allowing McDyre to score for a 6-5 advantage.
After being held in check by Hand since the third inning, the Spiders threatened in the eighth. With one out, Plantier singled. Lee followed with a single to move pinch runner Jordan Schulefand to third. However, Hand induced Adams to ground back to him for the second out of the inning. After a walk to load the bases, Hand got Miller to fly out to left to end the inning and hold the Flames' one-run edge.
Richmond reliever Jacob Lamb falls to 3-1 on the year. He gave up one run on one hit over 1 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked one.
Liberty collected six hits, while Richmond had seven. Each team committed two errors.
Up Next: The Flames return home for a three-game Big South Conference series with the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Liberty Baseball Stadium. The series gets underway at 6 p.m. on Friday.
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