Baseball: South Florida edges Liberty, 6-5

libertyA two-run home run by D.J. Artis pulled the Liberty Flames within one run in the top of the ninth, but the South Florida Bulls held off the late rally, defeating the Flames, 6-5, Sunday afternoon at USF Baseball Stadium.

The Bulls posted a pair of three-run innings in the fourth and fifth to carry a 6-3 advantage into the ninth. Liberty pinch hitter Jake Barbee walked to lead off the ninth and Artis followed by lining his first collegiate home run over the right field wall, cutting the Bulls’ edge to 6-5.

Three batters later, left fielder Andrew Yacyk beat out an infield single to put the tying run on base. However, the game ended when pinch runner Aaron Stroosma was thrown out at second when attempting to steal.

Flames’ right fielder Will Shepherd had two hits, including a two-run home run, his first of the season, while second baseman Andrew Kowalo collected two hits, both doubles, in his first start as a Flame.

With the win, South Florida takes the season-opening series, 2-1. Liberty drops to 1-2.

After Flames starting pitcher Michael Stafford worked out of a bases loaded, one out jam by striking out back-to-back Bulls in the bottom of the first, Liberty plated the contest’s first run in the top of second.

Shortstop Dalton Britt led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a walk to designated hitter Nick Walker. Kowalo followed by lining a double into left field, scoring Britt for a 1-0 advantage.

The host Bulls struck for three runs in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead. The first three batters in the inning reached. Designated hitter Luke Borders walked and after a pitching change, scored on a triple by third baseman Michael Koening. Left fielder Chris Chatfield followed with a run-scoring double for a 2-1 USF advantage. A wild pitch by reliever Thomas Simpson allowed Chatfield to score for a 3-1 edge.

In the fifth, the Bulls extended their lead on a three-run home run by first baseman Duke Stunkel. After the first two batters of the inning reached, Stunkel connected on his first home run of the year for a 6-1 advantage.

Liberty cut into the host’s lead in the seventh. With two outs and a runner aboard, Shepherd ripped his first home run of the season into the palm trees beyond the left field wall, trimming the Flames’ deficit to three at 6-3.

Liberty reliever Evan Mitchell falls to 0-1 on the year. The second of five Liberty pitchers in the contest, Mitchell gave up two runs on two hits during 1/3 inning of relief.

USF starter Joe Cavallaro runs his record to 1-0. The right-hander allowed one run on five hits over six innings of work. He struck out four batters and walked three.

Tommy Eveld records his first save of the year, pitching the final two innings, allowing two runs on two hits. He struck out three and walked two.

Each team had eight hits in the contest.

Liberty next returns home, Tuesday. The Flames will host the Tribe of William & Mary at Liberty Baseball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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