Jonathan Embry and Tre Todd each hit home runs and Zach Clinton threw four scoreless innings of relief, powering the Liberty Flames past the VCU Rams, 5-4, Friday in the 2018 season opener at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
Embry connected on the first home run of his career in his first at bat of 2018, giving Liberty an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Later, Todd belted a three-run home run in the seventh, breaking a 2-2 tie.
Clinton relieved Liberty starter Evan Brabrand at the beginning of the fourth and held the Rams scoreless over the next four innings. He scattered three hits, while striking out three and not walking a batter to record the victory.
Liberty moves to 1-0 on the year. VCU falls to 0-1. The Flames opened their season at home for the first time in Liberty Baseball Stadium history. In addition, the Flames had not started a season at home since 2005, a 7-6 win over Old Dominion at Worthington Stadium.
Liberty jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Embry's round tripper in the first. Center fielder D.J. Artis walked, leading off the bottom half of the inning. Two batters later, Embry, making his first collegiate start at catcher, ripped a 0-1 pitch from Rams' starter Connor Gillespie over the right field wall to give the Flames an early advantage.
VCU answered in the top of the second with two runs to tie the contest. Right fielder Brett Willett walked and shortstop Zac Ching was hit by a pitch to open the inning. Freshman designated hitter Liam Hibbits followed with his first collegiate hit, a single through the left side of the infield, plating Willett with the Rams' first run of 2018. Ching then scored on a squeeze bunt by catcher Josh Simon to knot the game at 2-2.
Held to just one baserunners after the first on a one-out single by shortstop Tyler Galazin in the fifth, Liberty struck for three on Todd's home run in the seventh. First baseman Dylan Allen reached on a throwing error by second baseman Daane Berezo to open the inning against new VCU pitcher Ryan Fox. After the next batter, designated hitter Andrew Yacyk walked, left fielder Todd crushed a 3-1 offering over the right field wall for a 5-2 Flames' advantage.
The Rams pushed across a run in the eighth to narrow the Liberty lead to two. Berezo and third baseman Paul Witt opened the inning with back-to-back singles. After Flames' left-hander Vinnie Tarantola battled back to retire the next two Rams, Ching dropped a two-out single into center field, trimming the Liberty lead to 5-3.
In the ninth, Liberty reliever Garret Price picked up his first save of the year, stranding the tying runner at third and the go-ahead run at second. With one out, center fielder Haiden Lamb reached on a wild pitch on strike three and left fielder Steven Carpenter walked. Two batters later, Witt doubled with two outs, scoring Lamb to cut Flames' lead to 5-4. Price then struck out first baseman Mitchel Lacy to seal the Liberty win.
Fox, the third pitcher of the contest for the VCU, drops to 0-1 on the year. The right-hander gave up three runs on two hits. He walked three.
The Rams collected eight hits and committed one costly error in the contest. The Flames had four hits and did not make a miscue in the game.
VCU and Liberty will meet again tomorrow in the middle game of a season-opening three-game series at Liberty Baseball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.
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