Liberty baseball improved to 30-11 overall and 14-1 in ASUN play after the team swept Bellarmine over the weekend. The series sweep came on the heels of the Flames dropping the midweek game in a very disappointing Tuesday afternoon in Charlottesville against Virginia. The Flames continue to be in the mix as a potential at-large team heading into the stretch run of the regular season and moving closer towards ASUN Tournament action.
TUESDAY: VIRGINIA 6, LIBERTY 5
Liberty jumped out to a 5-0 early lead at Davenport Field and Disharoon Park in Charlottesville, Virginia before the Virginia Cavaliers scored 6 unanswered to claim the 6-5 win.
The Flames jumped all over the Cavaliers in the 2nd inning with a 5-spot. The first three batters of the inning reached base before shortstop Cam Locklear singled to drive in two. Right fielder Brandon Rohrer’s bloop single to left fell in to score another run. Catcher Gray Betts brought home another with his sacrifice fly while Virginia second baseman Max Cotier booted Aaron Anderson’s grounder to score the 5th run of the frame.
In innings five through eight, Liberty would get runners on base and into scoring position but were unable to bring those runners home. In the 5th and 6th innings, the Flames loaded the bases and were poised to break the game open.
Making his third consecutive mid-week start, Cumming had another strong start for the Flames, putting the team in position to pick up a win over the power conference opponent. After pitching 5 innings of scoreless baseball, Virginia finally got to the Liberty pitcher in the home half of the 6th inning. Cumming would finish the day pitching 5+ innings while surrendering 5 hits and 2 earned runs. It was the third straight start for him that he ran out of juice after a strong start to the game.
The Cavaliers would add three more runs in the 7th inning off of Mason Fluharty and Cade Hungate to tie the game at 5. The Flames would again load the bases in the top of the 8th inning before Virginia closer Stephen Shoch would get out of the jam by striking out Brady Gulakowski.
To lead off the bottom of the 8th inning, Kyle Teel would go opposite field off Hungate to give Virginia its first lead of the game. Teel gets a little bit of payback from being robbed by Anderson earlier in the game. This ball was well over the fence and out of Anderson’s reach.
FRIDAY: LIBERTY 15, BELLARMINE 3
The Flames jumped all over the Knights on Friday night, cruising to an easy victory to open the weekend series. Liberty had a season-high 10 extra base hits with six doubles, three triples, and a home run. In his return to the lineup after being injured against Coastal Carolina last week, second baseman Will Wagner had two doubles as he drove in three runs and scored twice.
Trevor DeLaite had another strong start as he improved to 7-1 on the season. He allowed one run on six hits over the first seven innings and is 7-0 with a 2.24 ERA over his last nine starts.
First baseman Logan Mathieu had two hits, including his team-leading 10th home run of the season to go along with a game-high four RBIs while also scoring twice. Liberty scored a run in every inning, but the second. All nine hitters in the lineup had at least one hit in the contest, eight of the nine had at least one extra base hit in the game.
SATURDAY: LIBERTY 8, BELLARMINE 7
Game two of the series was much different than Friday night’s version as the Flames and Knights traded blows late into the game. Bellarmine began the game with a three-run blast by Matt Higgins in the top of the first to grab a quick 3-0 lead and chase Liberty starter Nick Willard before he was able to retire an out.
The Flames would respond with a five-run bottom of the first to take the lead until Bellarmine answered with another three-run home run in the top of the 2nd. Liberty added a run each in the 2nd and the 3rd as runs were scored in plenty during the first three innings. The Flames entered the middle innings with a 7-6 lead.
Bellarmine wouldn’t go away as they added a run in the 5th to tie it at 7 and the score would remain deadlocked until the home half of the 8th. Designated hitter Brady Gulakowski would break the tie with the eventual game winning home run in the 8th inning.
Fraser Ellard struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to record his fourth save of the year. After a shaky beginning of the game by Willard and Mason Meyer, Dylan Cumming steadied things by only allowing one run over three innings before David Erickson and Ellard shut out the Knights. Those two combined for four perfect innings to close the game. Erickson picked up the win as he moved into a tie for the ASUN lead in wins with eight.
SUNDAY: LIBERTY 9, BELLARMINE 8
The Flames scored five runs in the first three innings to seize control of the Sunday afternoon contest. Jaylen Guy’s solo shot made it 2-0 in the 2nd and Logan Mathieu added a three run home run in the third to push the lead to 5-0.
Freshman pitcher Trey Gibson was brilliant through five innings before Bellarmine got to him some in the sixth. The right hander finished the game pitching 5.1 innings only allowing one earned run as three runs came in following an error by third baseman Trey McDyre. The Knights would cut the Liberty lead to 5-4 with a four-spot in the 6th.
Adding to his weekend heroics, Brady Gulakowski added some insurance for the Flames with a two-run home run to center field in the 7th, making it 7-4. Looking to complete the sweep, the Flames entered the top of the 9th with Mason Fluharty returning to the mound after coming in to finish the 8th inning. After surrendering a double which was sandwiched between a strike out and a groundout, closer Landon Riley entered for the final out.
Riley entered the game having not allowing a run all season. He began his stint on the mount giving up consecutive singles as the score was narrowed to 7-5 with the go ahead run coming to the plate. Down to their final out and final strike, Jacob Mulcahy hit a towering shot over the fence to dramatically bring Bellarmine in front of Liberty, 8-7.
Trying to avoid just their second conference loss of the season, Liberty was down to its final three outs. Jake Wilson led off with an infield single followed by two straight outs as Logan Mathieu stepped to the plate. He would send the pitch to the opposite field and over the left field wall for the walk-off win and sweep, Liberty’s 10th straight ASUN win.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: LOGAN MATHIEU
Despite leading the team in home runs, Mathieu has had a batting average below .200 the majority of the season. This series against Bellarmine the left-handed first baseman broke out in a big way. Yes, he had three home runs in the three games, including two on Sunday and the walk-off in the bottom of the 9th to secure the series sweep, but he batted .385 during the weekend series. Mathieu also finished with four runs scored, nine RBIs, and a double. If he can continue that pace, this Liberty lineup goes to another level.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK: TREVOR DELAITE
Maine transfer Trevor DeLaite has developed into the ace of the staff for the Flames. He’s become as close to automatic on the mound for Liberty in that Friday night spot. This week, DeLaite allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings as he improved to 7-1 on the season.
Liberty continues their tour of the ACC during mid-week contests on Tuesday in Winston Salem, North Carolina against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Liberty bested Wake Forest in Lynchburg on April 7, 8-4. The Demon Deacons are 15-22 this season and 7-19 in the ACC after dropping two of three to NC State this weekend.
This weekend, the Flames have a crucial series against Kennesaw State. The Flames and Owls are the top two teams in the North Division of the ASUN and will play six times over the next two weeks. This weekend’s series is the final regular season series at Liberty Baseball Stadium this season. The Owls stepped out of conference play this past weekend with a series against in-state foe Georgia Tech, winning the series 2 games to 1. Kennesaw State is 26-13 on the season two games behind the Flames with a 12-3 record in the ASUN.
Liberty……………………..14-1 ASUN…30-11 overall
Kennesaw State………12-3 ASUN…26-13 overall
Bellarmine……………….7-14 ASUN…12-27 overall
Lipscomb………………..6-12 ASUN…15-24 overall
North Alabama……….6-15 ASUN…7-34 overall
FGCU………………………10-5 ASUN…24-16 overall
Stetson……………………9-6 ASUN…23-17 overall
North Florida……………9-6 ASUN…16-18 overall
Jacksonville……………2-13 ASUN…9-28 overall