LYNCHBURG, Va. – (via RadfordAthletics.com) Radford opened the 2018 Big South Baseball Championships with a 4-1 victory over third-seeded Liberty in possibly the last matchup between the conference rivals on the diamond as the Highlanders plated three runs in the final three frames.
Entering the tournament with a 10-2 mark in the last three championships, Radford appeared poised to make another run in the tournament as the Highlanders locked into an early 1-1 game with Liberty.
Radford has scored in the first inning 17 times on the season, holding a 12-5 mark when doing so and Tuesday afternoon was nothing different. Luke Wise led the game off with a walk and moved to second base on a passed ball. Wise scooted into third base on aKyle Butler fly out to center, setting up Spencer Horwitz's first RBI on the day with a ground out to second base.
Liberty answered with a pair of singles from Tre Todd and Tyler Galazin. Galazin's single into right field allowed Todd to advance to third base, but would be thrown out 9-6-3-4 after thinking about taking second base on the throw in. Todd scored one batter later on a passed ball.
After the Flames tallied two hits in the opening frame, Radford starter Austin Rosslocked in, holding Liberty to only two more hits in his 5.2 innings of work on the mound. The only run allowed came as an unearned run for Ross, lowering his ERA to 3.54 on the season.
The two teams each placed a runner on third base and were unable to cross the plate. Liberty put runners on the corners with one out in the third. Ross forced a pop up into shallow left field that Colby Higgerson made a sliding catch as he closed in on the foul line. Higgerson's web gem kept the Flames from taking the lead
In the sixth, Radford put a runner on third base as Horwitz reached on a fielders' choice throwing error that sailed into the Highlander dugout. Moving to second on the free base, Horwitz tagged up on a fly out and was stranded as Matt Roth lined out to left field.
Radford was held to four hits through six frames until the Highlanders struck for two runs on two hits after loading the bases in the seventh.
Straton Podaras opened the inning with a double off the left-center wall for Radford's third double of the day. Higgerson followed with a sacrifice bunt that the Liberty infield couldn't make a play on as the Highlanders put runners on the corners with its first two-hit inning.
After Richard De la Cruz struck out swinging, Carlin Christian earned a four-pitch pinch hit walk to load the bases.
Scoring the first run of the game, Wise provided the second run as he lifted an 0-2 pitch into center field to plate Podaras for the go-ahead run. Wise's third sac fly of the season ended up being the game-winning run, but not before Radford added an insurance run as Butler loaded the bases again on a hit by pitch.
Horwitz pushed the lead to 3-1 after earning a six-pitch walk for his 10th multi-RBI game of 2018. Despite having his 14-game hitting streak come to an end, Horwitz drove in two runs, increasing his RBI total to 43.
Reliving Ross in the sixth, Kyle Palmer took the lead and tossed 2.1 frames of two-hit ball, while stranding three Flames in the bottom half of the seventh as Liberty attempted to knot the game.
After a three up, three down eighth for both teams, De la Cruz led off the ninth with a solo home run to left field that one-hopped the Liberty bullpen out of the ballpark for his second home run of the season.
Higgerson closed out the ninth after Liberty put two runners on base, forcing three fly outs for his third save as the Highlanders snapped a three-game tournament skid to the Flames.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
- Win: Kyle Palmer (3-2) (2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K)
- Loss: Zach Clinton (6-5) (6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K)
- Save: Colby Higgerson (3)
- Radford received 3.1 shutout innings out of its bullpen as the Highlanders 'pen has only allowed four earned runs in 18.0 innings against Liberty in 2018.
- Palmer matched a career high in wins, set during the 2015 season, improving to 7-2 as a Highlander.
- Radford held Liberty to two hits in 14 at bats with runners on base and one in eight opportunities with a runner in scoring position.
- Dominating left-handed hitters all season, Radford's staff limited Liberty's southpaws to only two hits in 18 at bats.
- The Flames left 11 men on base, while the Highlanders stranded seven.
- Radford saw six of its nine leadoff batters reach base safely.
- Of Radford's seven hits, four came as extra-base hits.
- Richard De la Cruz collected his fifth multi-hit game on the season with a double and home run.
- He now has five RBIs in his last six games played.
- Of Radford's 33 home runs hit on the season, 22 have come against Big South teams.
- Spencer Horwitz now has 38 multi-hit games in 109 career games.
- Colby Higgerson extended his on-base streak to 15 straight games.
- The Highlander defense played its 22nd clean game on the season.
- Radford improves to 25-36 all-time in the Big South Championships.
- Head coach Joe Raccuia improves to 19-15 in tournament games, while Radford moves to 5-6 at the No. 6 seed.
- Radford will take on No. 3 High Point in the winner's bracket on Wednesday afternoon.
- First pitch is slated for 4:30 p.m.
- Radford is 3-3 against High Point in tournament games, winning the last two matchups.
- Probables: LHP Mack Krupp (0-4, 3.86) vs. RHP Andrew Gottfried (5-5, 3.34)