No. 5 Liberty used timely hitting in a slugfest to defeat No. 4 High Point, 9-7, in the 2006 Bojangles' Big South Baseball Championship Thursday night at Charles Watson Stadium/Vrooman Field on the campus of Coastal Carolina University.
With the win, Liberty improves to 38-19, while the Panthers fall to 27-31.
High Point jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first, moving four runners across. High Point sent all nine hitters to the plate, loading the bases up twice. Billy Aguiar posted two RBI in the inning, as well as Ryan Laboy and Dustin Holtzman each recording one RBI.
Liberty answered back in the top of the second, scoring six runs to take the 6-4 lead. The Panthers sent 10 players to the plate as Aaron Grijalva and Phil Larent each posted two run RBI knocks during the inning. Laurent's double was his 23rd of the year, breaking the single season mark for doubles by a Liberty player. Coming into the evening, the senior outfielder was tied with former Flames' infielder Joey Monahan with 222 two-base hits. Monahan had 22 in 2000.
High Point moved two runs over to tie the game up at 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth. Alfie Wheeler led the inning off with a single and moved to second on single by Jeff Cowan. The next batter, Chris Norwood, hit into a fielder's choice moving Wheeler to third. A single by Mark Shorey brought in Wheeler. Aguiar was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Schwartz brought home Norwood on a ground out.
Liberty threatened in the fifth, putting runners on first and second. However, HPU's Dustin Holtzman snared a line drive, stepped on second and tossed to first to turn the mysterious triple-play.
Libery plated two runners to take the 8-6 lead in the top of the sixth. Derek Bennion led the inning off with a walk and moved to second on a single by Phil John. The next batter, Errol Hollinger, moved Bennion to third and John to second on a bunt sacrifice. A wild pitch by relief pitcher Chris Marks allowed Bennion to score and moved John to third. John scored on Marks' second wild pitch of the inning.
The Flames posted one run in the seventh to push the lead to 9-6. With one out, Phil Laurent reached on a double and moved to third on a single P.K. Keller. Patrick Gaillard brought home Laurent with a single.
High Point moved one across in the bottom of the ninth to move the score to 9-7 but that would be as close as they would get.
Liberty's Ryan Page picked up the win and improves to 9-2, while High Point's Zach Scott took the loss, falling to 1-2 on the season. Picking up the save for LU was Phillip Thomas, his fifth of the year.
High Point will now play No. 6 UNC Asheville at 11:00am on Friday, May 26. The Flames will play the winner of that game later in the day at 7:00pm.
Liberty Head Coach Matt Royer
"The word for tonight was ‘overcome'. We overcame a four-run first inning, a triple play and a couple of bases loaded situations and still came out on top. We just kept battling and we overcame."
High Point Head Coach Sal Bando Jr.
"This was a tough one to lose after the way we started out. I have to give Liberty a lot of credit for taking advantage of the opportunities that we gave them. I was proud of the heart and determination that our guys showed by not giving up and having a chance to win the game in the ninth. We just have to regroup and go back to work tomorrow morning."