One day after the Flames had 12 hits and 6 runs, Liberty was held scoreless on 4 hits through 8 innings as North Carolina advanced to the Regional Final Sunday evening with a 16-1 win. Liberty scored 1 run in the 9th when the game was well out of reach. With the loss, the Flames will face Tennessee on Sunday at noon in an elimination game.
Liberty ace Andrew McInvale got the start just shy of one week from his start on 3 days rest in the ASUN Championship game on Sunday. The Liberty righty wasted no time getting started as he retired the powerful Tar Heels’ lineup in order to open the game in the top of the 1st, including two strikeouts in the frame. He had a solid outing with the exception of a couple pitches that got away from him. McInvale allowed just 5 hits in 6 innings, but 2 of those hits landed over the right field fence.
Dylan Harris got the scoring started as he crushed a 2-out solo home run over the right field wall and into the field hockey stadium giving North Carolina the 1-0 lead in the top of the 2nd. They added another run in the 4th to push their lead to 2-0. Ashton McGee hit a 2-run homer in the 6th as the lead swelled to 4-0.
Three more homeruns in the 7th off Liberty relievers Landon Riley and Logan Barker pushed the lead to 10-0 and the rout was on. North Carolina had 5 longballs on the day that drove in 9 of the team’s first 10 runs on the day.
Liberty frequently was able to get runners on base throughout the game, but rarely able to advance the runners. UNC turned three double plays in the first 4 innings to help keep the Flames at bay.
The Flames had their chances in the bottom of the 3rd. Brandon Rohrer started the inning with a single and was followed by Ben Highfill who crushed the ball to the warning in track in left center. Tar Heels’ center fielder Dylan Harris was able to track the ball down, robbing Highfill of an extra base hit and probably scoring Rohrer from first. After a pitching change and Jalen Guy’s fly out to left field, Liberty loaded the bases with walks to Gray Betts and Jonathan Embry. With 2 outs, Cam Locklear had a 7-pitch at bat that ended in him striking out swinging.
Again in the 6th, Liberty had a great chance to push across some runs after getting the first two men on base, but Carolina was able to out of the inning without any damage.
The Tar Heels utilized a bullpen day approach to pick up the win. Will Sandy started the game and went 2 1/3 innings before ceding to Hansen Butler who got out of the jam in the 3rd. Austin Love checked in for the 4th and threw 3 scoreless innings. Connor Ollio and Josh Dotson shut the Flames down in the 7th and 8th inning, respectively.
Liberty will get a rematch with Tennessee after beating the Volunteers, 6-1, in a game that ended in the early hours of Saturday morning. The loser of that game will be eliminated while the winner will advance to the Regional Final to face UNC Sunday at 6 p.m. and must beat the Tar Heels twice to advance to the Super Regionals.