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#5 Seed Flames Fall to #6 Seed Bulldogs in Big South Title Game; Just Breaks LU Season Hit Mark

May 27, 2006  Conway,S.C.  RSS
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#5 Seed Flames Fall to #6 Seed Bulldogs in Big South Title Game; Just Breaks LU Season Hit Mark

The #6 seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs erased a 10-run deficit to defeat the #5 Liberty Flames, 15-11, in Game 11 of the 2006 Bojangles Big South Baseball Championship, Saturday night, at Watson Stadium, to claim its first-ever Big South Baseball Championship. Flames second baseman Michael Just finished his career with four hits to break the Liberty single season hit record in the contest.

With the win, the #6 seed Bulldogs claim the conference's automatic berth to next week's  NCAA Tournament and run their record to 28-33 overall.  The #5 seed Flames end their season at 39-21.  Liberty 's 39 wins are the most ever by a Flames' club at the Division I level of competition.

 The Flames seemed to take control of the contest early by posting nine runs on eight hits in the second inning.  With one out, Patrick Gaillard began the offensive outburst by beating out an infield single to the shortstop.  Abe Yeakel followed with a bunt single down the third base line by Abe Yeakel.  Phil John then sent a grounder to second which the shortstop dropped on an attempted putout to load the bases.  Liberty took a 1-0 lead on a single by Derek Bennion. Chad Miller doubled chasing home Yeakel and John to make it, 3-0.  An infield single by Michael Just scored Bennion. 

Up 4-0, Aaron Grijalva's sacrifice fly plated Miller with Liberty 's fifth run and added another on a single to center by Phillip Laurent.  Gaillard, batting for the second time in the inning, reached on an error by the Bulldog pitcher, allowing Laurent and Keller to score for an 8-0 advantage.  He then scored on a double by Yeakel.

In the third, Liberty added another run to push its advantage to 10-0.  Second baseman Just singled to center with two out and score as the center fielder dropped a fly ball allowing him to score.  Just's hit was his 93rd of the season breaking the single season school mark held by former Liberty infielder Jason Benham, who had 92 hits, in 1992. He later added another hit to set the new mark at 94 hits in a season.

UNC Asheville got on the board in the fifth.  The Bulldogs strung together three consecutive hits with one out to push two runs across.  Both J.K. Whited and Kyle Smith singled and scored on a double by Steve Burnich.  He later scored on a ground out by Matt Henson.  Elliot Arrington then delivered a RBI single to cut the Flames' advantage to 10-4.

The Bulldogs closed it to 10-6 with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Burnich would drive in Charles Pippit, who had walked in the sixth, while Arrington scored on a sacrifice fly by Pippit in the seventh inning.

In the eighth inning, UNC Asheville completed their comeback.  The Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out and scored on a ground out by Arrington.  Eugene Locklear followed with a walk to once again load the bases.  Left fielder Rob Vernon then cleared the bases with his eighth home run of the season, a grand slam over the right center field wall, to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 11-10.

The Bulldogs followed its five-run eighth with five more in the ninth.  Arrington had a base clearing double to stretch the UNC Asheville advantage to 13-10, while Vernon and Whited had RBI singles to push the lead to 16-10.

The Flames added a run on a two-out bases loaded single in the ninth by Phil John.

Liberty reliever Phillip Thompson, the third of five Liberty pitchers, took the loss to fall to 6-7 on the season as he allowed five runs on three hits.  Alan DeRatt, the third of three pitchers for UNC Asheville, picked up the win to move to 8-4.  He allowed a run on three hits over the last four innings. 

After the game, three Flames were named to the all-tournament team:

All Tournament Team
OF – Rob Vernon, UNC Asheville (MVP)
OF – Phillip Laurent, Liberty
OF – Elliott Arrington, UNC Asheville
INF – Aaron Grijalva, Liberty
INF – Jeff Cowan, High Point
INF – Matt Repec, Winthrop
INF – Matt Henson, UNC Asheville
C – Billy Aguiar, High Point
P – Phillip Thompson, Liberty
P – Alan DeRatt, UNC Asheville
DH – Brant Peacher, Coastal Carolina
UTL – Phil Carey, Winthrop