LEXINGTON, S.C. – No. 7 Gardner-Webb would score eight runs in the first two innings to propel itself to a 16-7 win over No. 2 Liberty in the opening contest of the 2017 Big South Conference Baseball Championship.
Gardner-Webb jumped on the Flames early, plating three runs in the top of the first. Paul Trick led off the inning with a base hit up the middle, followed by fielding error by Liberty second baseman Andrew Kowalo that allowed Corey Howard to reach put runners on first and second with no outs.
The Runnin' Bulldogs would seize control of the contest in the second inning. Howard would belt a double to deep center field to drive in the first run of the frame. That was followed by a RBI groundout by Collin Thacker and a double to left field by Sullivan that would score one run to give GWU a 6-0 lead with two away.
Chandler Redmond would single up the middle to drive in Sullivan, and Redmond would later score on a wild pitch, putting the Runnin' Bulldogs up by an 8-0 score.
GWU would tack on an additional run in the top of the fourth on a RBI single by Kunz.
Liberty would scratch in the bottom of the fifth inning on a grand slam from Jake Barbee to pull within five runs at 9-4.
Lightning would delay the game for just over thirty minutes a the top of the sixth, and when play resumed Gardner-Webb would string together three consecutive base hits, capped by a RBI infield single by Redmond.
Gardner-Webb would score once more in the frame on a sacrifice fly by Matt Simmons, giving GWU an 11-4 lead.
In the eighth inning, Mickey Dugan would belt a RBI single to left field to increase the lead to eight runs for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Liberty would score three runs in the bottom of the eighth to pull within five runs at 12-7.
Gardner-Webb would plate four runs in the top of the ninth to push the lead to nine runs. Howard would hit a deep fly ball to right field to plate Trick, who led off the frame with a walk. That would be followed by a solo home run to left field by Thacker, his eighth of the season.
Next up would be Sullivan, who would also hit a home run to left field. It was his 17th of the year, which set a new school record for most home runs in a single season, breaking the previous record of 16 set in 2000 by Sammy Pruitt.
A sacrifice fly by Matt Simmons would score the final run of the afternoon.
Bradley Hallman (4-6) earned the win on the mound for Gardner-Webb, allowing four runs on four base hits in six innings of work. The right-handed junior did not allow a base hit until the fifth inning. Taylor Goodwin, Tyler Johnson, Aaron Stewart and Jarrett Thompson each saw work in relief.
GWU collected 18 base knocks throughout the day, led by Kunz (4-for-4, 3 RBI), Sullivan (4-for-5, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI) and Redmond (4-for-5, 3 RBI).
Evan Mitchell (6-2) took the loss for Liberty, allowing eight runs on seven base hits in two innings.
The Flames had six base hits, led by Barbee (2-for-4, HR, 5 RBI) and D.J. Artis (2-for-3, 2B).
Gardner-Webb will move on to play the winner of the No. 3 Presbyterian / No. 6 UNC Asheville game at approximately 4:30 pm on Friday afternoon.