P.J. Jimenez hit his third home run of the season, Friday.
The No. 2 Liberty Flames mounted two comebacks, taking control of the contest with four runs in the fifth inning, en route to a 9-7 victory over the No. 5 Winthrop Eagles, Friday in Game 9 of the Big South Baseball Championship at the Winthrop Ballpark. The Liberty win was the team's 41st victory of the year, setting a new school record for wins in a season.
With the win, Liberty, 41-18 on the year, moves into tonight's elimination game against the loser of this afternoon's contest between No. 1 Coastal Carolina and No. 4 High Point at 7 p.m. Winthrop, who fell to the Flames on Wednesday, 7-2, is eliminated from the tournament and finishes the season at 27-30.
Liberty's 41st victory sets a new school record, eclipsing the previous program record of 40 by the 1983 Flames team.
Winthrop, the visitor's on the scoreboard, struck in its opening at bat for a 2-0 advantage. Second baseman Tyler Cook led off the game with a single and plated the first run of the game on a triple into the right field corner by shortstop Aaron Gliebe. Left fielder Chas Crane followed with a grounder to score Gliebe.
In the bottom of the first inning, Liberty erased the early Eagle lead with three runs. Center fielder Curran Redal singled to open the frame and moved to second as shortstop Matt Williams drew a walk. Third baseman Tyler Bream followed with a double past a diving third baseman to produce the first Flame run of the contest. Second baseman P.J. Jimenez tied the score at 2-2, lifting a sacrifice fly to center field. After Bream moved to third base on a throwing error by Winthrop center fielder Tyler McBride, left fielder Kenneth Negron singled back through the middle of the infield for a 3-2 Liberty advantage.
Eagle catcher Eddie Rohan knotted the contest leading off the second inning. Rohan hit his 15th home run of the season over the scoreboard in left-center field, tying the contest at 3-3.
Winthrop took its second lead of the game in the top of the fourth. Rohan opened the frame with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch. After the next two batters were retired, McBride dropped a two-out single into right field to plate Rohan for a 4-3 advantage.
Liberty's Jimenez evened the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the inning. Jimenez lined his third home run of the season over the left field wall, leading off the frame to knot the score once again.
In the top of the fifth, the Eagles went back on top with two runs. Gliebe and Crane both walked to lead off the inning. First baseman Patrick Gamblin followed with run-scoring single to give Winthrop a 5-4 advantage. Later in the frame, a wild pitch allowed Crane to come home for a 6-4 edge.
Once again, Liberty answered with four runs in the bottom half of the fifth, as the lead continued to change hands. With two outs, Williams got the Flames started by ripping his fourth home run of the year over the left field wall for the first run of the frame. Bream followed with single and catcher Nathan Thompson and Jimenez walked to load the bases. The next batter, Negron, became the third straight Flame to draw a base on balls, forcing in a run to tie the contest for the fourth time at 6-6. Designated hitter Austin Taylor then lined a two-run single into center field to give Liberty an 8-6 advantage.
Winthrop cut the Flames edge to 8-7 with a run in the seventh. The Eagles loaded the bases with one out and scored on a fielder's choice by McBride. Liberty reliever Dane Beakler was summoned from bullpen and retired the final out of the inning, stranding runners in scoring position at second and third.
In the top of the eighth, Winthrop put runners on first and second with one out, but Beakler was able to get Matt Thielepape to ground into a double play to end the scoring threat.
Liberty added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning on a double play grounder, upping its lead to the final ledger of 9-7.
Reliever J.J. McLeod, the second Flames pitcher in the contest, evens his record to 1-1 on the season. The right-hander allowed two runs on four hits over 2 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked four. Beakler earned his second save of the season, with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. The right-hander struck out one batter and walked one.
Reliever Matt Pierpont takes the loss to fall to 0-2. The second of three Eagles to take to the mound in the contest, he was roughed up for four runs on four hits and walked four in an inning of work.
Redal, Williams and Bream each had two hits for the Flames, who had 10 in the contest. Jimenez, Negron and Taylor had two RBIs apiece.