The High Point Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 lead through the first three innings, en route to a 9-1 win over the Liberty Flames, Saturday afternoon at Coy O. Willard Stadium.
Liberty catcher Tre Todd, who had four hits and six RBI in the Big South series opener last night, collected three of Liberty's four hits in this afternoon's contest.
Liberty falls to 11-6 in the Big South action and 23-14 overall. High Point evens the series at 1-1. The Panthers move to 12-5 in conference and 21-17 overall.
High Point staked itself to a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the first. Center fielder Austen Zente opened the frame with his 10th home run of the year over the right field wall for a 1-0 edge. Next batter, third baseman Travis Holt, walked and moved to second on a single by second baseman Hunter Lee. After moving to third on a passed ball, Holt scored on a ground out by right fielder Carson Jackson for an early two-run edge.
The Panthers extended their lead with two runs in the second. Designated hitter Tanner Wells and first baseman JJ Woodward began the home half of the second with back-to-back singles. After shortstop Conner Dunbar walked to load the bases, Zente was hit by a pitch to force in a run for a 3-0 edge. Two batters later, Jackson plated another run with a fielder's choice ground out, upping the High Point advantage to 4-0.
In the third, the Panthers put three more runs on the scoreboard. With two runners aboard and one out, an error by Flames second baseman Trey McDyre on a grounder by Woodard allowed the first run of the inning to score. Dunbar followed with a safety bunt to plate the second run and give the home team a 6-0 advantage. Two batters later, Holt brought home Woodard with a fielder's choice ground ball for a 7-0 lead.
After Liberty reliever Vinnie Tarantola retired nine straight Panthers, High Point tacked on two more runs in the seventh. Left fielder Jordan Sergent singled and Wells walked to open the home half of the inning. Woodard followed with a single for an 8-0 advantage. Later in the inning, a ground out by third baseman Travis Holt brought in another run for a 9-0 ledger.
The Flames spoiled the shutout bid in the eighth. Center fielder D.J. Artis led off the inning with a double to the bottom of the center field wall. After advancing to third on a passed ball, Artis made it 9-1, scoring on a RBI ground out by designated hitter Logan Mathieu.
Liberty starting pitcher Noah Skirrow drops to 3-3 on the year. The freshman right-hander allowed seven runs on seven hits over three innings. He struck out four and walked two.
Flames reliever Tarantola finished out the contest. The left-hander gave up two runs on three hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked two.
High Point starting pitcher Joe Johnson raises his record to 2-0. Making only his second start of the year, the right-hander pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings, leaving with two men on and one out for Ryan Murrah in the sixth. He gave up three hits, all to Todd, struck out two and walked three.
Liberty was held to four hits and committed two errors. High Point collected 10 hits and made two errors.
Up Next: The Flames and the Panthers will meet in the rubber match of their three-game series, tomorrow at Coy O. Willard Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.