D.J. Artis had three hits, including his first home run of the year, Friday.
The Liberty Flames led from start to finish, overwhelming the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, 14-8, in the Big South opener for both teams, Friday evening at John Henry Moss Stadium.
Center fielder D.J. Artis collected three hits, including his first home run of the season, two RBI and two runs scored for the Flames. Left fielder Tre Todd and first baseman Dylan Allen each drove in three runs and scored two runs.
Logan Mathieu belted his second home run of the season for the Flames.
Liberty moves to 1-0 in Big South play and 10-7 overall. Gardner-Webb drops to 0-1 in conference and 11-8 overall.
The visiting Flames got off to a quick start, plating runs in their opening at bat. Liberty raced out to a 3-0 lead, as the first six men to bat in the top of the first reached. Artis led off the game with a single and advanced to second and third on back-to-back wild pitches by Runnin' Bulldogs starting pitcher Landon Mitchell. Todd followed with a double to the bottom of the left field wall for a 1-0 edge.
After Allen walked and designated hitter Andrew Yacyk singled to load the bases, catcher Jonathan Embry ripped a liner inside the first base bag and down the right field line for a double, scoring two more runs for a 3-0 advantage. Two batters later, Yacyk came in on a ground-ball double play for a 4-0 lead.
Each team pushed runs across in the second. Liberty extended its lead in the top of the inning. A one-out RBI single by Allen plated second baseman Trey McDyre, who walked, for a 5-0 Flames' edge. In the bottom of the inning, a one-out RBI single by Gardner-Webb second baseman Mickey Dugan put the hosts on the board and made it 5-1, Liberty.
In the top of the third, the Flames added to their lead, benefitting from two Runnin' Bulldogs errors. Embry walked to open the inning and moved all the way to third base on an errant throw on a pickoff attempt by Gardner-Webb catcher Justin Kunz. After right fielder Brandon Rohrer walked with one out, shortstop Cam Locklear bounced into a fielder's choice, scoring Embry for a 6-1 lead. McDyre kept the inning alive with a single, and Artis reached on a two-out fielding error to load the bases for Todd, who drew a walk, forcing in a run and giving Liberty a 7-1 lead.
Gardner-Webb cut the Flames' advantage to three in the fourth. Kunz was hit by a pitch and third baseman Eric Jones singled to open the inning. Chandler Redmond followed with his sixth home run of the year, trimming the Liberty advantage to 7-4.
The Flames answered in the top of the fifth, plating four runs with two outs. McDyre started the outburst with a double and scored on Artis' home run for a 9-4 lead. After Todd walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Allen singled back through the middle of the diamond to make it 10-4 Liberty. Yacyk followed with a single, which Gardner-Webb right fielder Mason Fox misplayed, allowing Allen to score and stretching the Flames' advantage to 11-4.
After the Runnin' Bulldogs pushed a run across in the bottom of fifth, Liberty tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth. Todd and Allen both walked with the bases loaded and two outs to lengthen the Flames' lead to 13-5. Gardner-Webb plated a single run in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Liberty pinch hitter Mathieu connected for his home run, leading off the top of the ninth.
Liberty reliever Zack Clinton moves to 4-2 on the year. The second of five Flames to pitch in the contest, Clinton gave up three runs on three hits over 1 1/3 innings.
Gardner-Webb's Mitchell falls to 2-3. The right-hander was roughed up for seven runs on seven hits over the first three innings.
Liberty pounded out 15 hits in the contest. Gardner-Webb had 13 hits. The Runnin' Bulldogs committed four errors.
Up Next: Liberty and Gardner-Webb will meet again tomorrow at John Henry Moss Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.
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