Liberty overcomes deficit, thanks in part to John Simmons’ grand slam, to knock off Lipscomb, 12-11, on Tuesday in game one of pool play to open the 2023 ASUN Tournament.
The Flames jumped out to an early lead as Kane Kepley began the game with a triple. After two outs, Cam Foster blasted a pitch over the wall for a two-run home run. Starting pitcher Mikey Tepper surrendered one run in the home half of the first inning, after Caleb Ketchup walked, stole a base, and advanced two bases on sacrifice hits.
The lead would extend to 5-1 in the second for Liberty. Todd Hudson and Nathan Keeter each hit safely to open the inning. John Simmons had an RBI bunt to score Hudson followed by RBIs from Kepley and Brayden Horton.
Lipscomb then plated 8 unanswered runs to take the lead and control of the game. The Bisons chased Tepper in the second inning following four straight singles, a walk, a two-run single, and RBI ground out as Lipscomb took the lead, 6-5 following two innings.
Despite being planted a 5-1 lead, Tepper, one of Liberty’s most reliable starters this season, was unable to maintain that lead. He lasted just 1.2 innings while allowing 6 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks.
For the first time in the game, a team was held scoreless in an inning as Liberty failed to score in the third. The Bisons, however, would continue to add to their run total on the scoreboard against Liberty reliever Cole Hertzler, who came on with two outs in the second inning. The Bisons added three runs to their lead in the inning, spotlighted by a two-run homer by Ketchup, pushing their advantage to 9-5.
Liberty would not go away though. An RBI ground out by Kepley scored Nathan Keeter in the top of the fourth trimmed the deficit to three at 9-6. The teams would then be held scoreless over the next couple innings.
Hertzler settled in and provided exactly what the Flames needed following the short outing by Tepper. He would pitch 4.1 innings, allowing three runs on two hits while striking out six and walking three. He tossed three scoreless innings, keeping Lipscomb off the scoreboard in innings 4-6.
With the score still at 9-6, the Flames exploded for six runs in the top of the 7th to take the lead that they would not surrender. Cam Troyer’s sacrifice fly scored Foster to begin the inning.
Then, with the bases loaded and two outs, Liberty’s ninth batter in the lineup, John Simmons, stepped to the plate. The first pitch he saw he smashed over the right field wall. The freshman’s first career home run was a grand slam, giving the Flames an 11-6 lead. Horton would double to score Kepley to round out the scoring in the 7th.
Nick Willard would be the third Liberty pitcher to take the mound, entering in the bottom of the 7th looking to keep the Flames on top and secure the win. He would face three batters, recording one out and walking two. Graham Edwards was then called upon and he would get out of the frame without surrendering any damage.
After a quick and scoreless 8th inning, Edwards went back to the mound in the 9th. He walked two, putting two runners on. The runners would advance to 2nd and 3rd on a wild pitch. They would then both score after a Cam Foster throwing error, making the score 12-11. With Ketchup on 2nd base, Edwards secured the win and picked up the third out with his fourth strikeout of the game.
Liberty is now in great shape to begin pool play and advance to Saturday’s semifinals. The Flames return to action against #4 Jacksonville on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
POOL PLAY STANDINGS
1. Liberty 1-0
1. FGCU 1-0
3. Jacksonville 0-1
3. Lipscomb 0-1
The top 3 finishers in Pool A will advance to semifinals.
1. Stetson 1-0
2. Jacksonville State 0-0
2. Austin Peay 0-0
4. Eastern Kentucky 0-1
Pool B winner will advance to semifinals.
ASUN TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE/RESULTS
Tuesday, May 23
Pool A #3 Liberty 12, #1 Lipscomb 11
Pool A #2 FGCU 7, #4 Jacksonville 0
Pool B #5 Stetson 8, #6 Eastern Kentucky 3
OFF: #7 Jacksonville State, #8 Austin Peay
Wednesday, May 24
Pool A #3 Liberty (1-0) vs #4 Jacksonville (0-1), 10 a.m.
Pool B #5 Stetson (1-0) vs #7 Jacksonville State, 2:30 p.m.
Pool B #6 Eastern Kentucky (0-1) vs #8 Austin Peay, 7 p.m.
OFF: #1 Lipscomb (0-1), #2 FGCU (1-0)
Thursday, May 25
Pool A #1 Lipscomb (0-1) vs #2 FGCU (1-0), 10 a.m.
Pool B #5 Stetson (1-0) vs #8 Austin Peay, 2:30 p.m.
Pool B #6 Eastern Kentucky (0-1) vs #7 Jacksonville State, 7 p.m.
OFF: #3 Liberty (1-0), #4 Jacksonville (0-1)
Friday, May 26
Pool A #1 Lipscomb (0-1) vs #4 Jacksonville (0-1), 10 a.m.
Pool A #2 FGCU (1-0) vs #3 Liberty (1-0), 2:30 p.m.
Pool B #7 Jacksonville State vs #8 Austin Peay, 7 p.m.
OFF: #5 Stetson (1-0), #6 Eastern Kentucky (0-1)
Saturday, May 27
#1 Qualifier Pool A vs #1 Qualifier Pool B, 11 a.m.
#2 Qualifier Pool A vs #3 Qualifier Pool A, 3 p.m.
Sunday, May 28
Championship Final, 1 p.m.