In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Liberty had an opportunity to win its Chapel Hill Regional elimination game in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. However, the Volunteers managed to force extra innings, and they took advantage of the added chance.
Jake Rucker drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning and the Flames failed to score in the bottom of the frame as their season came to an end with a 6-5 setback Sunday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.
The Flames finish their season with a 43-21 record, while the Volunteers (40-20) advanced to the regional final against host North Carolina on Sunday night.
Liberty loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth and tied the game at 5 when Logan Mathieu was hit by a pitch to drive in Gray Betts.
Redmond Walsh (2-2), who entered the game with two outs in the seventh, got Will Wagner to line out to first to keep the bases loaded, and then induced a double-play ground ball from Cam Locklear to force extra innings.
The new life allowed UT to attack against Evan Brabrand (4-3), who pitched a season-high 5 2/3 innings in relief. A two-out throwing error allowed Evan Russell to advance from first to third, and Rucker followed two pitches later with a single to left for the go-ahead run.
Brandon Rohrer led off the bottom of the 10th with a single and advanced to second on Ben Highfill’s sacrifice bunt. Walsh then got Jaylen Guy and Betts to fly out to end the game.
The Volunteers’ ability to escape the ninth inning with only allowing one run to score mirrored the Flames’ escape in the top of the first inning.
The first three Tennessee batters reached on singles against LU starter Joseph Adametz, but the freshman southpaw got a double play and a ground out to limit the damage to one run.
Pete Derkay laced a one-out triple to the right-center field gap to score Rucker, and Derkay scored on Connor Pavolony’s sacrifice fly to give UT a 3-0 lead.
The Flames cut the deficit to 3-1 in the bottom of the second on Betts’ single that scored Guy, and then tied the game in the fourth when Highfill (2 for 4) and Guy scored on Tyler Galazin’s single.
Andre Lipcius clubbed Brabrand’s second pitch of his appearance over the left-field wall for a two-run homer that put UT ahead 5-3.
Liberty cut the deficit to 5-4 on Highfill’s single that scored Wagner (2 for 5) in the bottom of the fifth.
Galazin went 3 for 4. Betts and Rohrer each had two hits.
Adametz pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed four earned runs on eight hits and struck out two, and Brabrand surrendered two runs (one earned) on six hits and struck out four in his longest relief appearance of the season.
Lipcius went 3 for 5. Walsh allowed one earned run on three hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings.