Charleston Southern tops Liberty
Johnson allowed an unearned run on three hits over seven-plus innings in the Big South Conference contest, moving to 4-3 on the season. He struck out six and walked four, before departing with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The setback snaps a five-game home winning streak for the Flames. Liberty moves to 18-15 overall and 4-4 in Big South play. Charleston Southern improves to 13-18 overall and 2-6 in conference action.
Liberty took a 1-0 edge in the bottom of the first. Left fielder D.J. Artis walked and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Payton Scarbrough to begin the home half of the first. After advancing to third on a passed ball, Artis scored on a ground out by right fielder Will Shepherd for an early advantage.
Charleston Southern struck for two two-out runs in the top of the second. With two outs, catcher Mike Sconzo singled and designated hitter Brandon Gragilla doubled. Second baseman Ryan Maksim followed with a single to plate both runners to give the visiting Buccaneers a 2-1 lead.
Charleston Southern added a single run in the sixth. Sconzo reached on a double to right-center field and moved to third on a ground out to open the inning. Two batters later, Sconzo scored on a sacrifice bunt by Maksim for a 3-1 edge.
Liberty errors in the seventh helped the Buccaneers add to their advantage in the seventh. Center fielder Sly Edwards reached on a two-base error, when Flames right fielder Shepherd dropped his fly ball. Singleton followed with a single to put Bucs at the corners. Edwards then scored as Liberty pitcher Zander Clouse threw wide of home plate on a safety squeeze by first baseman Kevin Hickey, upping the visitors’ lead to 4-1. A sacrifice fly by the next batter Sconzo gave the Bucs a 5-1 advantge.
In the top of the eighth, Charleston Southern shortstop Cole Murphy led off the inning with a triple and scored on a wild a pitch for what proved to be the final score of 6-1.
After being handcuffed by Johnson through the first seven innings, Liberty mounted a comeback attempt in the home half of the eighth. Third baseman Eric Grabowski walked and center fielder Jack Morris singled to begin the frame. Artis then walked, loading the bases.
The Buccaneers then went to their bullpen, bringing on right-hander Wil Hartsell. The reliever shut down the Liberty rally, inducing a pop up to second base and a ground ball double play to end the scoring threat and the inning.
Flames starting pitcher Evan Mitchell falls to 1-3 on the year. The right-hander gave up three runs on eight hits over 5 1/3-plus innings. The first of four Liberty pitchers in the contest, he struck out five and walked two.
Charleston Southern outhit Liberty, 11-3, in the contest. The Flames committed a season-high four errors. In addition to Singleton, Maksim went 3-for-3 with three RBI for the Bucs.
Liberty and Charleston Southern will meet in the rubber game of their three-game series, tomorrow afternoon on Military Appreciation Day at Liberty Baseball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.