Longwood rallies to top Liberty

liberty baseballA two-run ninth-inning home run proved to be the difference, as the Longwood Lancers defeated the Liberty Flames, 8-6, Saturday afternoon at Liberty Baseball Stadium.

Trailing 6-4 after seven in the Big South Conference contest, the Lancers rallied for two runs in the eighth to tie and then took what proved to be the winning margin on a two-run home run by first baseman Justin Mitchell in the top of the ninth.

Liberty, who had won six consecutive home games, falls at Liberty Stadium for the first time since March 27. The Flames drop to 13-7 in the Big South and 25-16 overall. Longwood evens the three-game series at 1-1. The Lancers move to 7-13 in conference and 14-27 overall.

Both teams scored runs in the third inning. Longwood’s Mitchell led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a single by third baseman Grant Keller. Second baseman Nate Blakeney followed with a RBI double for a 1-0 edge. In the bottom of the inning, shortstop Cam Locklear tripled to open the Liberty third inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by right fielder Brandon Rohrer, tying the contest at 1-1.

In the top of the fifth, Lancers right fielder Ryan Shull drew a one-out walk and advanced to second when pinch hitter Nathan Iskowitz walked. Two batters later, both runners stole second and third and scored on a single by center fielder Sammy Miller for a temporary 3-1 lead.

Liberty answered in the bottom of the inning. Left fielder Jonathan Embry beat out a bunt single to open the inning and two batters later, he moved to second on a single by Locklear, his second hit of the game. After both runners moved into scoring position by executing a double steal, Rohrer, who had two hits in the contest, reached on a one-out infield single, plating Embry to make it 3-2 Lancers. Locklear then came home on a wild pitch to deadlock the contest at 3-3.

Longwood took its third advantage in the game in the sixth. Keller led off the inning with a double and later scored on a squeeze bunt with one out by shortstop Antwaun Tucker for a 4-3 edge.

The Flames fought back with three in the seventh. First baseman Dylan Allen walked and two batters later, moved to third base on a hit-and-run single by Rohrer. Second baseman Trey McDyre then lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Allen to once again tie the game, this time at 4-4. Center fielder D.J. Artis followed with a single, plating Rohrer for a 5-4 Liberty edge. Catcher Tre Todd ripped a double into the right-center field gap to score Artis, giving the Flames a 6-4 advantage.

The Lancers stormed right back with two in the eighth to knot the contest again. Mitchell, Keller and Blakeney each singled to load the bases to begin the inning. Catcher Joey Mendez then lifted a sacrifice fly to bring home Mitchell, slicing the Liberty edge to one at 6-5. Tucker followed with a RBI ground out, tying the game at 6-6.

In the top of the ninth, Miller singled with one out and was aboard on Mitchell’s fifth home run of the season, as the Lancers took an 8-6 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Locklear was hit by a pitch to open the inning, but was erased as Mitchell snagged a hard liner by Rohrer and doubled up the Flames shortstop. Lancer pitcher John Gregory then retired the next batter to seal the Lancer victory.

Liberty right-hander Mason Hand drops to 1-2 on the year. The freshman gave up four runs on five hits over three innings of relief. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.

Gregory raises his record to 2-0. The left-hander pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. He gave up two hits, striking out one.

Longwood had 14 hits in the contest. Blakeney and Keller each had four hits for the Lancers. Liberty collected 10. Neither team committed an error.

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