Liberty shuts down USF, wins 4-0

libertyLiberty pitchers Victor Cole, Jack DeGroat, Zach Helsel and Caleb Evans combined to shut out the South Florida Bulls, 4-0,Saturday evening at USF Baseball Stadium.

The four held the Bulls to four hits, striking out nine and walking six to lead the Flames to their first victory of 2016.

Cole pitched the first three innings, giving up one hit, striking out two and walking three. DeGroat (1-0), making his first collegiate appearance, followed with 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, picking up his first career win. The freshman right-hander gave up two hits, striking out four and walking two.

Helsel, also making his first collegiate appearance, took over with a man on second and two outs in the seventh. The freshman right-hander allowed one hit, striking out one and walking one.

Evans entered with two on and two out in the eighth and proceeded to retire all four batters he faced in collecting his first career save. The right-hander struck out one and did not walk a batter.

Center fielder D.J. Artis, who had four hits last night, tripled and drove in two runs for the Flames.

Liberty evens its record at 1-1 on the season. South Florida drops to 1-1. With the win, Flames head coach Jim Toman moves within two games of reaching 300 career wins. The nine-year Liberty skipper would become only the second coach in program history to post 300 victories during his tenure.

Visiting Liberty jumped on the scoreboard with three runs in the top of the second, taking advantage of four walks and a hit batter. The first three batters of the inning reached, as shortstop Dalton Britt and second baseman Eric Grabowski walked. After designated hitter Nick Walker was hit by a pitch, catcher Josh Latta walked to force in the first run of the contest and give the Flames a 1-0 lead. Artis followed with a RBI sacrifice fly, upping the Liberty advantage to 2-0.

After third baseman Dylan Allen walked to load the bases again, right fielder Will Shepherd lifted a RBI sacrifice fly for a 3-0 edge.

In the bottom of the frame, the Bulls loaded the bases with two outs. However, Cole struck out center fielder Garrett Zech to end the inning.

Liberty extended its advantage to four in the top of the fourth. Nick Walker singled and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Latta to open the inning. Artis followed by lining a triple to the bottom of the right field wall, scoring Walker for what proved to be the final score of 4-0.

USF starter Brad Labozzetta takes the loss, dropping to 0-1. The first of five pitchers on the night for Bulls, the right-hander gave up three runs on one hit. He struck out one and walked five.

After combining for 31 hits in the season opener last night, hits were at a premium in game two of the three-game series. The two teams combined for seven hits on the evening with the Flames collecting three and the Bulls managing four.

Liberty and South Florida will wrap-up their three-game series, tomorrow afternoon at USF Baseball Stadium. First pitch is the scheduled for 1 p.m.

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