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2011 Baseball Recap

June 10, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Matt Williams greeted by Steven Evans and Doug Bream after hitting a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth against VCU on May 17.

Matt Williams greeted by Steven Evans and Doug Bream after hitting a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth against VCU on May 17.

With the drafting of seven Liberty players during the Major League Baseball Draft this week, the curtain officially came down on the 2011 season for the Liberty baseball program. Liberty baseball recorded a 35-24 overall record in the team's fourth year under head coach Jim Toman.  In addition, Liberty posted an 18-9 record in Big South play and finished second in the conference's regular season standings. Below is a brief recap of the recently completed campaign.

Flames Make History with MLB Draft
Liberty had seven players taken during the 2011 MLB Draft, the most players chosen in a single draft in the 38-year history of the program. Previously, the Flames had five players taken in the 2002 Draft. Liberty ties the 2007 and 2010 Coastal Carolina squads for the Big South Conference record of seven players picked in a single draft. The Flames have had 47 players taken in the MLB Draft in the program's 38-year history.

Pitcher Garrett Baker was the first Liberty player taken in the 2011 Draft, when the left-hander was selected in the 11th round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Baker is the highest Liberty player to be taken in the entry draft since pitcher Jason Jones was selected in the fourth round of the 2004 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees.

With his selection in the 13th round by the Minnesota Twins, left-handed pitcher Steven Evans was the next Flame picked, followed by shortstop Matt Williams, who was taken in the 15th round by the St. Louis Cardinals and pitcher Blake Forslund was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 17th round. Catcher Casey Rasmus joined Williams with the Cardinals, as he was picked in the 36th round by the team, while right-handed pitcher Keegan Linza was chosen in the 38th round by the Chicago White Sox. Third baseman Tyler Bream rounded out the Liberty draftees, when he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 42nd round.

Liberty has had a player picked in every Major League Draft since 2000.

Over 30 Wins
With a 6-4 win at Gardner-Webb on May 14, Liberty recorded its 30th win of 2011. It was the seventh consecutive season, and each of its four years under head coach Jim Toman, the Flames have won 30 or more games in a year.  It is the first time in the 38-year history of the program; the Flames have posted 30-plus wins per season seven-straight years.

Last season, the Flames posted a school-record 42-19 mark to record its sixth-straight season of 30 wins or more.  The 42 victories eclipsed the previous school standard of 40 set by the 1983 Liberty team. It was the second time in the program's history a team posted 40 or more wins in a year.

Before this current streak started, the Liberty baseball program had never won 30 or more games for four consecutive years. Previously, the Flames had posted 30 or more victories for three consecutive seasons from 2000-02. 

Toman Guides Flames to Best Mark Over First Four Years
With a 145-90-1 record, Jim Toman has led the Flames to best mark of any head coach during his first four years at Liberty. The Flames finished 2011 with a 35-24 mark, the third time they have won 35 or more games under Toman.  In 2010, Liberty posted a school-record 42-19 mark, eclipsing the previous school standard of 40 set by the 1983 Liberty team. It was the second time in the program's history a team posted 40 or more wins in a year.

Big South Play
Liberty finished 18-9 in Big South Conference play in 2011, while posting a school-record 19 conference victories in 2010.  The Flames combined 37 wins are the most by a Liberty team over two seasons since joining the Big South in 1992.

The Year of the Pitcher
Led by all-conference pitchers Garrett Baker, Steven Evans and Keegan Linza, the Liberty pitching staff had one of its strongest seasons in program history.  The Flames pitching staff posted a 4.05 ERA, the best for a Liberty team since 1991, which had a 3.77 ERA. The mound staff also had the fewest runs allowed, 283, since the 1991 team which yielded 209 runs.  The 1991 team's mark is the lowest since Liberty moved to the Division I level in 1984.

Flames pitchers also walked 144 batters during 2011, the fewest since 1986, when 140 free passes were issued. Liberty allowed the 10th fewest walks in the nation during the year. Liberty pitchers finished the year with an outstanding 2.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (362-to-144).

Burning Up the Base Paths
The Flames stole 119 bases in 2011, the most by a Liberty team since 2001, when the Flames had a school-record 196 stolen bases. Liberty finished the season seventh in the nation in the statistical category and led the Big South Conference. The Flames had a 79.3 percent stolen base success rate (119-150).

Taking advantage of its team speed, Liberty doubled its stolen base total from the previous year. The Flames swiped 57 stolen bases in 80 attempts over 61 games in 2010. The 2011 Liberty squad's total was the most in a season during head coach Jim Toman's four years.

Not only did Liberty double last year's season stolen base total, but individually four Flames finished 2011 with more steals than outfielder Curran Redal, who led the 2010 team with a season total of 13 stolen bases. Leading the way was outfielder Ian Parmley, who had 27 stolen bases, finishing third in the Big South in base thefts.  Catcher Casey Rasmus, who played in 47 games, and outfielder Michael Robertson followed with 18 stolen bases, tying for seventh in the conference in the category. Shortstop Matt Williams also reached a double-digit total, stealing a single-season career-high 16 bases.

Linza Ties Single-Season Win Mark
In his final game in a Liberty Flames uniform, senior right-hander Keegan Linza pitched his fifth complete game of the season, leading Liberty to a 6-1 victory over Charleston Southern on May 26 at the 2011 Big South Baseball Championship.  With the win, Linza finished the year with an 11-3 record, tying him with Jason Jones (2004) for the Liberty's single-season win record.  The right-hander ranked sixth in the country and led the Big South in victories.

A 2011 first team Big South all-conference and a Big South Baseball All-Tournament team member, Linza also led the Big South with 108 innings pitched and the second-best ERA in the conference (2.08).  The two marks also are among the program's single-season lists. His 2011 ERA ranks as the fourth-best and his innings pitched were the fifth-highest in program history for a single season. In addition, he became the first Liberty pitcher to throw five complete games in a campaign since Michael Solbach went the distance five times in 2005. Linza was selected in the 38th round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox.

Evans Finishes Career on Several Lists
Left-hander Steven Evans completed his four-year career at Liberty by placing his name on several of the school's career lists. Evans posted a 26-10 record during his Flames' career, finishing second on the program's all-time victory list.  The Amherst, Va. native, ends his career beyond only former Flames standout Lee Guetterman (1978-81), who is the program's leader with 29 career wins.

In addition, Evans concludes his Liberty career second on the Liberty's innings pitched and strikeout ledgers. The left-hander pitched 322 1/3 innings during his time at Liberty, placing him second once again on the program's list behind Guetterman with 334 2/3 innings pitched. He also struck out 268 batters during his career. Only Mike Brown (1994-97) with 287, compiled more.

Evans, named to the 2011 Big South all-conference second team, went 7-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 2011. He struck out a team-high 83 batters and walked 29 over 100 1/3 innings, holding opponents to a .211 batting average. The senior listed second in the Big South in opponent batting average, while finishing the year third in strikeouts and innings pitched. Evans set career single-season bests in ERA, innings pitched and complete games (3).

A fixture of the Flames' pitching staff over the past four years, Evans was selected in the 13th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft by the Minnesota Twins. He posted four saves and a 3.38 ERA during his career.

Williams Moves Up on Career 2Bs List
Shortstop Matt Williams continued his climb up the school's Top 10 career doubles list. With 17 doubles in 2011, Williams now has 51 two-base hits during his career, tying him for fourth on the list with Aaron Grijalva (2005-08) on the all-time list. Former Liberty outfielder Phillip Laurent (2003-06) holds the school career record for two-base hits with 68.  He also set the single-season record with 27 in 2006.

Williams was named to the Big South All-Conference second team for the second straight year this spring and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. The infielder hit .336 with 38 RBIs and 41 runs scored, while leading the Flames with 76 hits, 17 doubles and career single-season high nine home runs. Two of his home runs were walk-offs.  He stole 16 bases, the most during his three seasons as a Flame, in 20 attempts. Williams is also among the program's career hits leaders.  Williams is 10th all-time with 223 career hits.

Williams' Liberty teammate Tyler Bream, also moved into the Top 10 career doubles in 2011.  With 46 two-base hits, the Flames third baseman ranks eighth on the school's career list. Bream is tied with former Liberty catcher David Benham (1995-98) and second baseman Michael Just (2003-06).  The junior was the only Flame to play in all 59 Liberty contests this season, finishing the year with a .252 batting average, 33 RBIs and 28 runs scored. The third baseman had nine doubles and three home runs. He completed the year sixth in the nation with nine sacrifice flies. He was selected in the 42nd round of the MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Baker Is Big Addition
In his first season in a Liberty uniform, pitcher Garrett Baker established himself as the workhorse of the Flames' relief corps and a strong addition to the team's pitching staff.

The junior left-hander was named to the 2011 Big South All-Conference second team and was the first Liberty player taken in the Major League Baseball Draft, being selected by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 11th round. Baker made a team-leading 25 appearances, posting a 6-5 record with three saves and a 2.73 ERA in 66 innings. Of his 25 appearances, four were starts. He ended the year, sixth in the Big South leaders in ERA and is fifth with a .233 opponent batting average.

In addition, Baker has struck out 43 and walked only eight batters. Of his eight walks, five were intentional free passes. He allowed the fewest walks in the conference and yielded 1.09 walks per nine innings, ending the year ninth nationally.

Parmley Puts Name among Single-Season Base Thieves
Junior center fielder Ian Parmley led the Flames and finished third in the Big South Conference with 27 stolen bases in 2011.  The Liberty outfielder ended the year ranked 31st nationally in the category.

Parmley's 27 steals were the most by a Liberty player since 2004, when outfielder Jeremiah Boles had 31 stolen bases. In addition, Parmley has moved into a tie for sixth on the program's single season list with former Liberty infielder Larry Wayne York, who had 27 stolen bases in 2003. Gary Wagner holds the school record with 46 stolen bases in 1983.

In his first season as a Flame, Parmley also led the team by scoring 48 runs.  He finished the year with a .314 batting average, hitting .356 over his last 20 games.

Doug Bream Receives National, Conference Honors
The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) named Liberty senior outfielder Doug Bream and Clemson junior shortstop Brad Miller National Co-Hitters of the Week, April 12. The Flames outfielder was also selected to the College Baseball Foundation's National All-Star Line-Up, as well as being named the Southeast Regional Player of the Week by and the Big South Player of the Week for games played through April 10.

During the week, Bream batted .737 (14-19) with six runs scored, eight RBIs, two doubles, one triple and two walks in four games. The senior had four or more hits in three of the games, including a 5-5 day in a midweek contest with James Madison on April 6. His five hits in a game was a career-high for the outfielder.

Bream enjoyed his best year in his final season in a Flames uniform and was rewarded by being named to the 2011 Big South All-Conference second team.  The outfielder also had the most multiple-hit games, 23, and RBI games, 12, of any other Liberty player. The senior posted single-season career-highs in RBIs, doubles (14), triples (3) and stolen bases (9). In addition, he had two home runs.

Casey Rasmus - Base Cop
Catcher Casey Rasmus was tough on base stealers this season.  The junior threw out 41 percent (18-of-44) of would-be base stealers in 47 games.  He finished the year with the best percentage of runners caught stealing in the Big South Conference. In an interesting note, while Rasmus caught 18 would-be base stealers, he stole 18 bases in 2011.

In his first season with the Flames, the catcher hit .287 with 18 RBIs, 26 runs scored and three home runs. Taken by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 36th round of the MLB Draft, Rasmus closed out the year by being named to the 2011 Big South Baseball Championship All-Tournament team.  In Liberty's four games during the double-elimination tournament, he led the Flames with a .438 batting average and scored four times.

What About the New Bats?
One of the most talked about events of the 2011 college baseball season was the effect of the new bats. Prior to the year, the NCAA changed the requirements of the bats, trying to make them more like wooden bats and diminishing the speed at which the ball came off them. 

Liberty had 15 percent fewer hits (567-671) in 59 games this season than in the same number of games in 2010.  (Liberty played 61 games last season). The Flames finished the year with a .284 team batting average compared to a .319 batting average through 59 games last season.

Liberty also saw its power numbers go down in 2011, as the Flames had 19 percent less extra base hits this year.  Liberty had 161 extra base hits this season and a slugging percentage of .412, compared to 198 extra base hits and a .459 slugging percentage in 2010.  The most noticeable place for the difference was doubles, where the Flames had 145 in 2010, compared to 106 this year.

The new bats along new rules to decrease the time between innings and govern mound visits also had an effect on Flames contests.  Playing time of Liberty contests saw a 26 percent decrease in 2011.  Liberty games ran an average of 2:28, compared to 2:52 in 2010, a 24-minute difference. Last season in 61 games, Liberty had played 19 games which lasted three hours or longer. In 2011, the Flames have had only six games go over three hours.

Liberty Award Winners

Several Flames received recognition this season:

Big South All-Conference

Keegan Linza, first team, starting pitcher
Garrett Baker, second team, relief pitcher
Doug Bream, second team, outfielder
Steven Evans, second team, starting pitcher
Matt Williams, second team, shortstop

Big South All-Academic
Keegan Linza

Big South All-Tournament
Keegan Linza, pitcher
Casey Rasmus, catcher

NCBWA National Co-Hitter of the Week (4/12)
Doug Bream

College Baseball Foundation All-Star Line-up (4/14)
Doug Bream