Coleman got things started with one out in the 10th, roping a line drive single to left center - and moving into scoring position when the ball was mishandled in the outfield. Yelverton fell behind 0-2 at the plate next, and put the ball in play on the ground to first base to move Coleman to third when the ball was booted. With Coleman taking a small turn at third, the ball was throw home - out of the reach of the Liberty catcher - and Coleman dashed home and stepped over the tag for the winning run after the Flames' third error of the inning.
The win was the first for Gardner-Webb (29-17-1, 13-9 Big South) in extra innings this season, and improved the 'Dogs to 11-2 in one-run games in 2011. The loss snapped an impressive, seven-game win streak for Liberty (29-20, 15-7 Big South). The win improved Gardner-Webb's league win streak to seven games, and pulled GWU to within two games of the second-place Flames.
Starting pitchers Emilio Pagan (Gardner-Webb) and John Niggli (Liberty) engaged in a scoreless duel through the first three innings, until the Flames' Matt Williams followed a two-out walk to Casey Rasmus by belting a two-run home run over the fence in left for a 2-0 Liberty lead.
Jake Watts singled and stole second with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, and scored on a hard, line drive single up the middle from Dusty Quattlebaum to trim the lead to 2-1.
Pagan settled in to work quickly through the fifth, but an infield single, hit batter and walk loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth - as the Flames moved into position for a big inning. A foul ball pop up left the bases loaded with one out, but Justin Richardson singled home a run to put Liberty up 3-1. Pagan worked out of the jam without further damage, however, as a botched squeeze play at the plate and a fly ball ended the inning.
Gardner-Webb rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the sixth, as Benji Jackson and Daniel Merck got on board with back-to-back singles with one out. Jake Watts batted with Niggli in an 11-pitch at bat, before belting a two-run double off the base of the fence in right - tying the score at 3-3. Watts advanced to third on the throw home, and his double chased Niggli from the game.
Southpaw reliever Garrett Baker came on for the Flames and got a ground ball for the second out with Watts still at third, but Aaron Miller laid down and legged out a perfect push bunt to first base to drive in Watts for a 4-3 Gardner-Webb lead - before Baker could end the rally with a strikeout.
The lead would be short lived, as Tyler Bream greeted reliever Brock Wilson with a double to left and back-to-back singles from Austin Taylor and Zack Haley - the eight and nine-hole hitters for the Flames - tied the score at 4-4, and put the go-ahead run in scoring position with nobody out for the visitors. GWU went to the pen again, bringing on lefty Brett Stackhouse - who recorded back-to-back strikeouts to slow the Flames down. An intentional walk to Williams loaded the bases, and Stackhouse fanned cleanup hitter Doug Bream to leave the game tied.
Neither team threatened in the later innings, with Stackhouse and Jeff Howell holding down the Flames - and Baker mowing down GWU at the plate with seven strikeouts in 3.2 innings. Baker struck out the side in the ninth to send the game into extra innings.
Howell worked through a quick top of the 10th inning, striking out pinch hitter Marcus Grimaldi to end the frame - setting up the wild finish in the bottom half of the inning.
Howell (4-1) earned the win, fanning four batters in 2.2 perfect innings of relief. Brett Stackhouse fanned three in 1.1 relief innings, while Pagan took a no decision - allowing three runs on five hits with four strikeouts in 6.0 innings of work.
Gardner-Webb had 12 hits in the game, with Watts going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI and two runs scored to pace that effort. Merck (2-for-4, run) also had a multiple-hit game for the 'Dogs.
Baker (6-4) took the hard-luck loss in relief for Liberty, allowing just one run (unearned) on three hits and fanning seven in 4.0 innings pitched. Niggli scattered nine hits and gave up four runs in 5.1 innings of work.
The Flames collected eight hits, with Zack Haley going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Game two of the series will take place Saturday, with first pitch pushed up to 1:00 pm due to expected wet weather in the afternoon. The game will air live on WGWG-FM (88.3), with Fabian Fuentes calling the action from John Henry Moss Stadium / Bill Masters Field.