Liberty overcomes four-run deficit for 9-6 win
Trailing 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the Liberty Flames scored seven unanswered runs to outlast the Longwood Lancers, 9-6, Friday evening in the opener of a three-game Big South series at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
The Flames overcame their four-run deficit with two runs in both the fifth and the sixth innings to knot the game at 6-6, before plating three in the eighth on a base-loaded, two-out double by shortstop Cam Locklear, which dropped between three Lancers fielders, for a 9-6 lead.
Liberty raises its record to 13-6 in Big South play and 25-15 overall. Longwood drops to 6-13 in conference and 13-27 overall.
The Flames took a 2-0 advantage in the second inning. First baseman Dylan Allen and Locklear, who had two hits in the contest, opened the home half of the inning with back-to-back singles. After both runners moved into scoring positon at second and third base on sacrifice bunt by right fielder Brandon Rohrer, second baseman Trey McDyre dropped a bunt, scoring Allen for a 1-0 edge. Center fielder D.J. Artis followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Locklear to give Liberty an early two-run lead.
The Lancers cut into the Flames advantage in the top of the third. Shortstop Antwan Tucker led off the inning with a bunt single and advance to third on a ground out and a bunt. Center fielder Sammy Miller followed with a two-out RBI single, slicing the Liberty lead to 2-1.
In the top of the fifth, Longwood sent all nine men to the plate, scoring five runs on six hits for a four-run advantage. Tucker began the inning with a single and came around to plate the first run of the frame on a double by catcher Joey Mendez. Left fielder Jawan McAllister then beat out an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error by Flames pitcher Garret Price, which allowed Mendez to score for a 3-2 edge.
After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by Miller, McAllister plated a run on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Justin Miller for a 4-2 advantage. Two batters later, second baseman Nate Blakney singled to score third baseman Grant Keller, who doubled with two outs, and made it 6-2 Lancers on a RBI double by designated hitter Mac McCafferty.
In the bottom of the fifth, Liberty countered with two runs of its own. With one out and runners on first and second, left fielder Jonathan Embry went the opposite way, lining a run-scoring ground-rule double to left, trimming the Lancers edge to three at 6-3. Third baseman Tyler Galazin, who reached on a fielder’s choice earlier in the frame, then scored on a wild pitch, cutting the Longwood lead to 6-4.
The Flames tied it in the sixth. Rohrer walked and McDyre was hit by a pitch, leading off the bottom of the inning. After a Lancer pitching change, Artis moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Catcher Tre Todd and designated hitter Logan Mathieu followed with back-to-back RBI singles to tie the contest at 6-6.
In the eighth, Liberty went in front for good. Todd walked and Mathieu, who had two hits in the game, singled to open the home half of the inning. Two batter later, Embry was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. Longwood right-hander Michael Catlin was then able to get Allen to pop out for the second out of the inning, before Locklear cleared the bases by dropping a double between three Lancers in shallow right field for a 9-6 lead.
Liberty’s Jackson Bertsch closed the victory with a scoreless ninth, running his record to 4-2 on the season. The right-hander did not allow a run over the final three innings, striking four.
Longwood’s Catlin falls to 3-4. He gave up three runs on five hits over three innings of relief. He walked two batters.
Liberty collected 11 hits and committed three errors. Longwood had 10 hits.