LYNCHBURG, Va. – Courtesy: Ryan Bomberger, Liberty University
No. 1 seed Campbell Fighting Camels held off a rally by the No. 3 seed Liberty to eliminate the Flames, 6-4, Friday evening in Game 13 of the 2018 Big South Baseball Championship at Liberty Baseball Stadium.
Down 6-3 in the seventh and final inning of the elimination game, the Flames plated a run to cut their deficit to 6-4 and loaded the bases with two outs. However, Liberty shortstop Cam Locklear's drive was caught just short of the warning track in left field to end the contest.
Left fielder Ayden Karraker hit his second home run of the season in the fifth inning and scored twice for the Flames in the contest.
After winning three consecutive elimination games to stay alive in the 2018 Big South Championship, Liberty sees its season come to end with a 32-26 record. Campbell moves to 34-24 and advances to tomorrow's Big South title game, beginning at 11 a.m.
A Campbell error in the opening inning allowed the Flames, the visiting team due to seeding, to plate the game's first run. With two out in the top of the first, third baseman Tyler Galazin singled. Designated hitter Logan Mathieu followed with a single, which got past Camel left fielder Matthew Barefoot, allowing Galazin to come around and score for a 1-0 edge.
Campbell went in front in the third. Third baseman Kyle Mehl singled and center fielder Bryce Myers beat out a bunt single to open the bottom of the third. Barefoot then moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, second baseman Christian Jones hit his 18th home run of the season over the left field wall for a 3-1 lead.
The Camels added to their advantage in the fourth. With one out, shortstop Luis Gimenez walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Gimenez moved to third on a single by Mehl, center fielder Bryce Meyers dropped down a bunt to plate the Campbell shortstop for a 4-1 lead.
Liberty pulled to within a run in the top of the fifth. Karraker led off the inning with his second home run of the year, halving the Campbell advantage to 4-2. Second baseman Ben Highfill then walked, ending the day for Camel starter Brandon Jenkins. Two batters later, catcher Jonathan Embry lined a triple off the wall in right-center field, plating Highfill to trim the Campbell edge to one at 4-3. However, Camel reliever Logan Bender was able to hold Embry, the potential tying run at third, inducing a ground out to shortstop with the infield drawn in and a fly out to end the inning.
Campbell answered with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Right fielder Jeff Hahs and Jones walked to open the frame. Two batters later, catcher Tyler Babin brought in Hahs with double to right for a 5-3 lead. Designated hitter Zach Minnick followed with a sacrifice fly for a 6-3 advantage.
The Flames attempted to rally in the seventh. Karraker and Highfill each walked, leading off the top of the seventh to bring the tying run to plate to hit. Both runners moved to second and third base on a fly out by center fielder D.J. Artis. Two batters later, Galazin walked to load the bases with two out against Campbell right-hander Tyson Messner. Mathieu then walked to force in a run and move Liberty to within two runs at 6-4. But, Messner was able to get Locklear to fly out to close out the contest.
Making his first career start, Liberty right-hander Zack Brockman finishes his freshman year with a 2-2 mark. He gave up six runs on six hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked four.
Campbell starter Brandon Jenkins moves to 3-1 on the year. The right-hander allowed three runs on three hits over four innings. He struck out five and walked three.
Messer pitched the seventh and held on to record his eighth save of the season. He gave up one run and walked four.
Liberty had four hits and committed an error. Campbell collected seven hits and made one error.