The Radford Highlanders turned back the Liberty Flames, 4-3, Saturday afternoon at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
With the Flames leading 3-1 after six innings of play, the Highlanders plated a run in each of the final three innings for the comeback victory in the middle contest of the three-game Big South series.
Liberty falls to 14-9 in Big South play and 26-23 overall. The setback is the seventh straight for the Flames, their longest losing skid of the season. Radford moves to 13-10 in conference and 22-27 overall.
In the contest, Liberty center fielder D.J. Artis became only the third player in school history to record over 200 hits, score over 165 runs and steal over 65 bases in his career (Kevin Butler 2000-02 and Joey Monahan 2000-02). The outfielder, who entered the game with 204 career hits and 68 career stolen bases, scored twice in the contest to reach 166 runs scored for his career.
Liberty plated two runs in the first for a 2-0 lead. Artis reached on a fielding error by Highlander second baseman Kyle Butler and advanced to second on a two-out walk to first baseman Dylan Allen. After both runners moved into scoring position on a passed ball, shortstop Cam Locklear singled back through the middle of the infield, plating Artis. Radford shortstop Colby Higgerson made a diving stop of Locklear's hit behind the second base bag, but then threw wildly to first, allowing Allen to score for an early Flames' advantage. Catcher Jonathan Embry followed with a double into the right-center field gap, but Locklear was thrown out at home trying to score to end the inning.
Liberty extended its lead with a run in the third. Artis walked and moved to third on a double into the right field corner by left fielder Tre Todd. Third baseman Tyler Galazin followed with a run-producing ground out for a 3-0 edge.
In the top of the fourth, Radford pushed across its first run of the contest. Higgerson walked with two outs and scored on a double by designated hitter Straton Podras, trimming the Liberty advantage to 3-1.
In the bottom of the inning, the Flames attempted to lengthen their lead, but came away empty. With one out, designated hitter Ayden Karraker tripled down the right field. Two batters later, second baseman Trey McDyre and Artis both walked to load the base. However, Radford starter Hunter Williams induced a pop out by Todd to end the scoring threat and the inning.
Liberty also left runners at third in fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Galazin was hit by a pitch leading off the fifth and moved to third with two outs, before being stranded. In the sixth, Artis tripled with two outs, but was also left.
Radford scored a run in the seventh and one in the eighth to tie the game. Podras, who had three hits in the contest, led off the seventh with a double and scored on a ground out by catcher Will Harless to cut the Liberty edge to 3-2. In the eighth, third baseman Matt Roth, who singled earlier in the frame, scored on a two-out single by Podras, knotting the game at 3-3.
Benefitting from a Flames' error in the top of the ninth, the Highlanders were able to plate the go-head run. Harless walked to lead off the inning. Left fielder Garret Matheny followed with a bunt in an attempt to advance the runner to second. Liberty pitcher Jackson Bertsch fielded the ball and threw wide of second base in an attempt to get Harless, allowing both runners to move into scoring position. Center fielder Luke Weiss followed with a sacrifice fly to score Harless from third and give Radford a 4-3 edge.
In the bottom of the ninth, Highlander reliever Kyle Palmer retired the Flames in order to seal the Radford win and record his fourth save of the year.
Bertsch falls to 4-4 on the season. He allowed two runs on two hits over 1 1/3 innings in relief of starter Zach Clinton. Bertsch walked three batters.
Clinton pitched the first seven innings, giving up two runs on eight hits. He struck out four and walked two.
Radford reliever Andrew Nardi evens his record to 3-3 on the year. He held Liberty scoreless over 3 2/3 innings, before giving way to Palmer in the ninth. He struck out one and walked one.
Liberty collected seven hits and committed one error in the contest. Radford had 10 hits and made two errors. Liberty left 10 men on base, while Radford left eight.
Up Next: Liberty and Radford will wrap-up their three-game series at Liberty Baseball Stadium, tomorrow. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. Before the game, the Flames will hold their Senior Day festivities honoring the five seniors on their roster.
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