Liberty second baseman Will Shepherd hit two home runs and shortstop Dalton Britt collected four hits, Tuesday afternoon at Pitt Field. However, the Richmond Spiders built an early advantage and then held off a late Flames charge for a 10-9 victory.
Shepherd hit home runs, four and five of the season, in the contest. The second baseman hit a two-run home run in the seventh and a solo blast in the ninth. He walked twice and scored three runs.
Britt followed up a three-hit contest against Duke, last night, by going 4-for-4 with three doubles, a RBI and walk. He scored twice for the Flames.
Richmond built a 10-4 lead through seven innings, only to see Liberty rally with five runs in the eighth and ninth innings. After plating two runs in the eighth, the Flames scored three to pull within one run and move the tying run to third base with two outs. Spiders reliever Matt Olson then was summoned out the bullpen to get the final out to close out the win.
Liberty falls to 20-19 overall. Richmond moves to 20-15. The contest was the only meeting between the two teams, this season. The game was Liberty’s first visit to Richmond since 2006.
After Liberty left runners at third base in both the first and the second innings, Richmond jumped on the scoreboard first in the third. Catcher Kyle Schmidt singled and shortstop Tyler Beckwith walked to begin the home half of the inning. Second baseman Michael Morman followed with a liner into the left-center field gap, plating both runners for a 2-0 edge.
The Flames took advantage of two walks and a hit batter in the top of the fourth to cut into the Spiders’ advantage in the fourth. Shepherd walked to lead off the inning. After Shepherd moved to second on a wild pitch, Britt drew a one-out walk and designated hitter Andrew Kowalo was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Right fielder Josh Close then scored Shepherd with a high chopper to the shortstop, trimming the Richmond lead to 2-1.
In the bottom of the inning, the Spiders batted around and benefited from four free passes to score five times. With one out, the next three Richmond batters walked to load the bases. An infield single by Morman then brought home the first run of the inning. Two batters later, designated hitter Doug Kraeger drew a bases loaded, two-out walk to force in the second run of the frame for a 4-1 lead. After a Flames pitching change, first baseman Kurtis Brown cleared the bases with double into the right-center field gap, extending the Spiders’ lead to 7-1.
Liberty pushed across a run in the sixth. Britt doubled to the bottom of the center field wall lead off the inning and moved to third on a single by Kowalo. Close followed with a sacrifice fly to make it, 7-2 Richmond.
Shepherd’s home run in the top of the seventh moved the Flames to within three. With one out, left fielder D.J. Artis singled. Two batters later, Shepherd lined an offering over the 365 foot sign in left-center field, cutting the Spiders’ lead to 7-4.
In the bottom of the seventh, Richmond added to its advantage. A one-out RBI double by third baseman Jonathan De Marte and a two-run double by Morman, who tied his career-high with five RBI, gave the host team a 10-4 lead.
The Flames plated two runs in the eighth. Britt doubled to open the inning. Two batters later, Close and pinch hitter Nick Walker each drew one-out walks to load the bases. Third baseman Eric Grabowski then walked to force in the first run of the inning and the next batter Artis was hit by a pitch to push another run across to trim the Richmond lead to 10-6.
Liberty rallied in the ninth. Shepherd led off the inning with his second home run of the contest. Andrew Yacyk and Britt followed with back-to-back doubles to slice the Flames’ deficit to 10-8. Two batters later, Close and Payton Scarbrough, who came into catch in the bottom of the eighth, both singled. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move into scoring position. Grabowski then plated Close with an infield single, cutting the Flames’ deficit to on, before Olson entered and collected the final out to end the Liberty comeback attempt.
Flames starting pitcher Carson Herndon drops to 3-2 on the season. He gave up two runs on two hits over the first three innings. He struck out two and walked four.
The Spiders starter Jacob Lamb improves to 2-1. The left-hander gave up six runs on nine hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked five.
The nine pitchers for the two teams combined to walk 18 batters in the contest.
Liberty outhit Richmond, 15-8. The Flames left 10 men on base, while the Spiders left nine.
Liberty next travels to Clinton, S.C. for a Big South three-game series against the Presbyterian Blue Hose, this weekend. The series opens Friday at 3 p.m. at the PC Baseball Complex.