Despite a three hits and a home run by Liberty first baseman Andrew Yacyk and three RBI for center fielder Jack Morris, the Winthrop Eagles used a three-run seventh inning and held off a ninth-inning Flames rally for a 6-5 victory, Sunday afternoon at the Winthrop Ballpark.
Liberty scored four unanswered runs to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh, only to see Winthrop plate three in the bottom of the inning for a 6-4 lead in the Big South Conference.
The Flames mounted a rally in the ninth, scoring a run, and moving the potential go-ahead run to third base with two outs. Liberty put runners on the corners, but Eagles reliever Zach Cook was able to record the final out to close out the Winthrop win.
Yacyk had three hits and a home run, his team-leading sixth. He drove in a run and scored a run in the contest.
Morris collected two hits, plating runs with both. The freshman center fielder tied his season high with three RBI.
Liberty drops to 3-3 in Big South play and 16-14 overall. The Flames have lost four-straight contests. Winthrop improves to 4-2 in conference and 16-12 overall. The Eagles have won five consecutive games and sweep the three-game series. It is the first time since May 10-13, 2013 at Campbell that Liberty has been swept in a three-game series.
The Flames jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first. With two outs, Yacyk gave Liberty an early advantage, lining a solo home run off the scoreboard in center field.
The host Eagles answered in the bottom of the inning. Left fielder Tyler Asbill singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch to open the frame. After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, Asbill scored on a single by designated hitter Anthony Paulsen, tying the game at 1-1. Catcher Roberto Gonzalez followed with a RBI double, giving Winthrop a 2-1 edge.
Paulsen extended the Eagle advantage in the third. With two outs, the Winthrop designated hitter lifted his third home run of the year over the right field wall for a 3-1 lead.
Liberty tied the contest in the top of the fifth. Shortstop Dalton Britt and designated hitter Austin Bream led off the inning with back-to-back singles. After catcher Payton Scarbrough moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, center fielder Jack Morris followed with a two-run single, knotting the contest at 3-3.
The Flames took a short-lived lead in the top of the seventh. Bream drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Scarbrough. Morris followed with a run-scoring single for a 4-3 edge.
In the bottom of the inning, Winthrop scored three runs for a two-run lead. After nine of the last 10 Eagles had been retired, first baseman Mark Lowrie broke up the string by hitting his second home run of the year to open the home half of seventh and tie the contest at 4-4. Right fielder Jace Whitely followed with a single and two batters later, scored on a single by shortstop Kyle Edwards, giving the Eagles a 5-4 edge.
After a Liberty pitching change, Asbill singled to move Edwards to third. Second baseman Brandon Fife then brought home Edwards with a ground out to push the Winthrop’s advantage to 6-4.
In the top of the ninth, Liberty moved the tying run to third base with two outs. Bream walked to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Two batters later, pinch hitter Nick Walker moved Bream to third with a single. Artis followed with a fielder’s choice to score Bream, trimming Liberty’s deficit to 6-5 with two outs. Right fielder Will Shepherd followed with a single, moving Artis, the potential tying run to third base. However, Cook was able to get Yacyk to bounce back to him to end the contest.
Liberty starting pitcher Jack DeGroat drops to 1-2 on the year. DeGroat gave up six runs on nine hits over 6 1/3-plus innings. The first of three Liberty pitchers in the contest, he struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Winthrop starting pitcher Thad Harris evens his record at 2-2. Harris allowed four runs on seven hits over seven innings. He struck out four and walked two batters.
Cook records his fourth save of the season. The final Eagle pitcher of four, Cook gave up two hits.
Liberty collected 10 hits in the contest. Winthrop had 11 and committed one error.
Liberty returns home to begin a four-game homestand, Tuesday. The Flames will host the Maryland Terrapins at Liberty Baseball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.