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Liberty Falls as Bulldogs Rally in Ninth

April 24, 2009  Boiling Springs, N.C.  RSS
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Doug Bream had three hits and drove in two runs, Friday

Doug Bream had three hits and drove in two runs, Friday

The Gardner-Webb Bulldogs rallied for two ninth-inning runs to take the opener of their three-game Big South Conference series with the Liberty Flames, 9-8, Friday afternoon at Masters Field.

Big South leader Liberty drops to 14-4 in the Big South Conference and 27-13 overall. Gardner-Webb moves to 10-6 in conference play and 21-16 overall.

The Flames jumped to an early lead in the top of the opening inning. Shortstop Matt Williams (Fr., Franklin, Tenn.) lined the first pitch of the game into left field for a single. Center fielder Curran Redal (Jr., Moses Lake, Wash.) followed by lacing a double down the right field line to put both runners in scoring position at second and third.

Left fielder Doug Bream (So., Elizabethtown, Pa.) made it three-straight hits, ripping a double into the right field corner, scoring both runners for a quick 2-0 Liberty advantage. Catcher Errol Hollinger (Sr., Upland, Calif.) then dropped a single into center field to plate Bream for a 3-0 lead.

The Bulldogs cut into the Flames' advantage in the third frame. With two outs, left fielder Dane Cooke singled to center field. Third baseman Justin Loyd followed with his ninth home run of the season, slicing the Liberty lead to 3-2.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Gardner-Webb sent all nine batters to the plate, scoring five runs to take a 7-3 advantage. Catcher Ty Boyles reached on a fielding error by Flames third baseman Tyler Bream (Fr., Zelienople, Pa.) to begin the inning. Both Boyles and shortstop Tyler Johnson, the next batter, were safe, when Liberty starting pitcher Steven Evans (So., Amherst, Va.) mishandled Johnson's sacrifice bunt.

After designated hitter O.J. McFarland walked, second baseman Matt Rizzuto connected for his ninth home run of the year, a grand slam, giving the Bulldogs their first advantage of the game, 6-3. Later in the inning, Gardner-Webb capped the uprising with a RBI single by Cooke.

Liberty responded immediately in the top of the fifth, slicing into its host's advantage with two runs. Second baseman P.J. Jimenez (Jr., Yucaipa, Calif.) led off the stanza, ripping a double off the third base bag and down the left field line. Two batters later, Redal singled sharply to left to score Jimenez with the first run of the inning. After an out, Hollinger singled to plate Redal to close the gap to 7-5, Gardner-Webb.

In the sixth, the Flames tied the contest with two more runs. With one out, right fielder Tim Rotola (Sr., Wichita, Kan.) singled and moved to second when Jimenez, the third batter of the inning, walked. The next batter, Williams, lined a two-out single into the right-center field gap, bring home Rotola to cut the Liberty deficit to 7-6. Jimenez, then tied the game at 7-7, scoring when Bulldog second baseman Rizzuto mishandled a grounder by Redal.

The Flames went back in front in the seventh, 8-7. Designated hitter Cody Brown (Sr., Cumming, Ga.) led off the inning with a single. Brown then moved to second on a ground out and to third base on a single by Rotola. First baseman Trey Wimmer (Fr., Greenwood, S.C.) followed and brought Brown home with a RBI ground out for an 8-7 lead.

The score remained the same until the bottom of the ninth, center fielder Brock Miller and Cooke led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Loyd followed with a single to bring home Miller, knotting the contest at 8-8. Two batters later, Boyles lined a double to the wall in left to score Cooke for the 9-8 win.

Liberty starter Evans allowed seven runs, four earned, on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings. Reliever Carter Browning (Jr., RHP, Ada, Okla.) followed and pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up two hits. Andrew Wilson (Sr., RHP, Cary, N.C.) takes the setback to fall to 4-2 on the year. The right-hander gave up two runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Gardner-Webb starter Devin Campbell allowed seven runs, six which were earned, on 11 hits in 5 2.3 innings. Bulldog reliever Ryan Maxa picks up the win to run his record to 5-0 on the year. He gave up just on additional run over the final 3 1/3 innings of work to close out the game.

Doug Bream and Rotola each had three hits of the Flames' 14 hits in the game. Loyd led all hitters in the contest with four of the Bulldogs' 14 hits.

The two teams will meet again tomorrow afternoon at Masters Field. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.