Eighth-inning single pushes Liberty past UNC Asheville, 7-6
An RBI single by left fielder D.J. Artis in the eighth inning propelled the Liberty Flames past the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 7-6, Thursday night in the opener of a three-game Big South series at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
With the scored knotted at 6-6, third baseman Josh Barrick opened the home half of the eighth with a double, which was lost in the lights by Bulldogs’ shortstop Carmine Pagano. After center fielder Jack Morris moved Barrick to third with a sacrifice bunt, Artis chopped a single high over the head of the third baseman and into left field for a 7-6 Liberty advantage.
In the ninth, first baseman Danny Wilson led off the inning with a single. But, Flames’ reliever Shane Quarterley, who pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, got right fielder Kyle Carruthers to ground into a double play on the first pitch of his at bat. Quarterley then got left fielder Scott Kobos to fly out to center field, sealing the 7-6 victory.
Liberty moves to 14-10 overall and begins Big South Conference play at 1-0. With the win, Liberty snaps a three-game losing streak. Asheville drops to 5-16 overall and 0-4 in conference.
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 edge in the first. Catcher Lucas Owen singled with one out and advanced to second on a walk to designated hitter Pete Guy. Two batters later, Wilson dropped a two-out single into left, giving Asheville an early advantage.
Liberty tied it up in the second. With one out, shortstop Dalton Britt belted his second home run of the season off the batters’ eye beyond the center field wall, knotting the contest at 1-1.
The Flames plated three runs in the third to take their first lead of the night. Morris began the inning with a double off the top of the left-center field wall and Artis followed with a single. With runners at the corners, right fielder Will Shepherd lined a double inside the left field line and into the corner, plating both runners for a 3-1 edge. After moving to third on a single by designated hitter Andrew Yacyk, Shepherd scored on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Andrew Kowalo, extending Liberty’s advantage to 4-1.
Both teams plated single runs in the fourth. In the top of the inning, Carruthers doubled and later, scored on a two-out single by Pagano.
Catcher Payton Scarbrough walked and first baseman Sammy Taormina singled to begin the inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Barrick moved both runners into scoring position and a walk to Morris loaded the bases, Artis lifted a sacrifice fly to make it, 5-2 Flames.
Asheville drew closer on the scoreboard with a run in the fifth. Center fielder Joe Tietjen singled with two outs. Two batters later, Carruthers singled, trimming the Liberty lead to 5-3.
The visiting Bulldogs plated three runs in the sixth off Liberty right-hander Carson Herndon, who came on in relief of starting pitcher Evan Mitchell. Asheville loaded the bases, as three of the first four batters of the inning walked. Guy followed with walked, forcing in the first run of the inning, cutting the Liberty edge to 5-4.
Quarterley was then summoned from the bullpen, only to see a high chopper go for an infield single off the bat of Tietjen, tying the game at 5-5. Wilson followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice, putting Asheville in front, 6-5.
Liberty answered in the bottom of the inning. Taormina drew a one-out walk and moved to second on an errant throw on a failed pickoff attempt. Barrick followed with a run-producing single, tying the contest at 6-6 and set the stage for Liberty’s eighth inning rally.
Quarterley moves to 4-0 on the season. He gave up three hits and struck out three batters during his relief stint.
Eric Whitecavage falls to 0-1. The last of four Bulldogs to pitch in the contest, Whitecavage pitched the eighth, allowing the winning run on two hits.
Liberty collected 11 hits, led by Artis and Barrick with two each. Artis also had two RBI. Asheville had nine hits.
The Flames and Bulldogs will meet again tomorrow evening at Liberty Baseball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.