Right fielder Will Shepherd had three hits, including a home run, helping the Liberty Flames defeat the High Point Panthers, 16-3, to close their 2016 regular season, Friday at Coy O. Willard Stadium.
Shepherd posted his fourth three-hit game and connected on his seventh home run of the year to tie Andrew Yacyk for the team lead. The right fielder drove in two runs and scored two runs.
Catcher Payton Scarbrough and infielder Andrew Kowalo also hit home runs in the game. Scarbrough hit his fourth home run of the year in the contest. The Liberty catcher had two hits and two RBI and scored two runs.
Kowalo, who entered the game at third base in the seventh, belted a grand slam in the Flames’ nine-run ninth inning. The home run was the infielder’s sixth of the year.
In addition, shortstop Dalton Britt tied the Liberty program record for games played in a career. The senior infielder started his 235th straight game to share the record with Trey Wimmer, who played for the Flames from 2009-14.
Liberty takes the Big South three-game series, 2-1. The Flames move to 12-12 in Big South play and 28-27 overall. Head Coach Jim Toman’s club has won six out of its last seven games. High Point drops to 14-10 in conference and 31-22 overall.
The Flames took advantage of a Panthers miscue to take a 1-0 advantage. With one out, designated hitter Nick Walker reached on a throwing error by High Point shortstop Chris Clare. Walker then advanced to third base on a single by Shepherd and made it, 1-0 Flames, by scoring on a passed ball.
Both teams plated a two-out run in the second. In the top of the inning, Liberty added to its lead on a wild pitch. Third baseman Eric Grabowski walked and moved to third on a double by second baseman Josh Barrick. A wild pitch by Panther starter Andre Scrubb on ball four to left fielder Andrew Yacyk, allowed Grabowski to score, extending the Liberty advantage to 2-1.
In the bottom of the inning, High Point first baseman Carson Jackson singled with one out and advanced to second on a ground out. Center fielder Josh Greene followed with a two-out single to plate Jackson, cutting the Flames’ edge to 2-1.
Liberty struck for three runs in the fourth. With one out, Scarbrough and Grabowski singled. Barrick was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Center fielder D.J. Artis, who had two hits in the contest, followed by lining a two-run single to right, stretching the Flames’ advantage to 4-1. The next batter, Walker, singled back through the middle, scoring Barrick for a 5-1 lead.
Each team scored a run in the fifth. Scarbrough’s second hit of the game upped Liberty’s advantage in the top of inning. With two outs, the Flames catcher belted a solo home run over the left field wall for a 6-1 lead. In the bottom of the inning, a wild pitch with runners on the corners and one out allowed a High Point run to score and cut the Flames’ lead to 6-2.
Shepherd’s second hit of the game added to Liberty’s advantage in the top of the seventh. The right fielder led off the inning with a home run over the left field wall for a 7-2 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, High Point loaded the bases with one out and brought the tying run to the plate to bat, but only came away with one run. The first three batters of the inning were walked. After the first out of the inning was recorded on an infield fly, Jackson was hit by a pitch to force in a run to make it, 7-3 Flames.
Liberty then brought Grabowski in from third base to pitch, and the right-hander pitched out of the bases loaded jam. Grabowski struck out designated hitter Zach Vandergrift and Greene to end the threat and the inning.
The Flames put the game out of reach by sending 12 men to plate and scoring nine runs in the top of the ninth. Liberty plated its first five runs of the inning on a single by Shepherd, a sacrifice fly by Britt, a single by Jack Morris, who entered the game in center field in the bottom of the eighth, a throwing error, and a RBI grounder by Scarbrough. Kowalo capped the inning with his grand slam for the final score of 16-3.
Flames starting pitcher Geoffrey Murphy moves to 2-1 on the year. The right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits over the first five innings. He walked four batters.
Grabowski earns his first save of the season. The last of four Liberty pitchers in the game, Grabowski pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out five.
High Point starter Scrubb falls to 7-6. He gave up two runs on two hits over the first two innings. He struck out three and walked three.
The Panthers used five pitchers in game.
Liberty outhit High Point, 12-11. The Panthers committed three errors.
Flames outfielder Artis walked twice in the contest to set a new single-season program record with 49.
With its regular season complete, Liberty will next travel to Lexington, S.C. for the 2016 Big South Baseball Championship, which begins on Tuesday.
The Flames’ seed and opponent will be determined with the conclusion of the Big South Conference regular season, tomorrow. Liberty will be either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed and play at either 9:30 a.m. or 30 minutes after that contest at Lexington County Baseball Stadium, Tuesday.