By Rob Potter
LIBERTY April 25, 2003 A five-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday gave the Liberty Indians their first win of the baseball season.
Amid cool temperatures, a stiff breeze and occasional snow flurries, visiting S. S. Seward built a 7-3 lead after six-and-a-half innings of play.
But Liberty (1-5) made the most of its final at-bat in the non-league contest. The Indians combined three hits with five walks to score five runs for a dramatic 8-7 victory.
Ashton Richards led off the seventh with a single and promptly stole second base. Derek Blume then walked to put two runners on with no outs. The next batter, Jason Garritt, then ripped a triple into left field to make it a 7-5 game.
Joe Colacurcio followed with a single to right field, which allowed Garritt to score and cut the Seward lead to just one run.
Seward second baseman Rob Gillespie then relieved Kyle OSullivan on the mound as the Spartans tried to nail down the victory. Gillespie quickly got two flyball outs and it seemed as though Seward would hang on for the win.
But Matt Burns walked and Josh England was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a force play at home plate and every base. Joe Fitzsimmons coaxed another walk out of Gillespie to knot the score at 7-7.
Richards then stepped into the batters box for the second time in the inning. He worked the count to 3-2 and calmly took the next pitch, which was ruled a ball. Burns then jogged to the plate with the winning run for the Indians.
Im very happy with the team, Liberty Coach Jim OConnor said. They didnt quit, they came back to win. We needed a win and Im proud that we rallied to get it.
While Seward Coach Bill Steele was pleased that his team hit the ball well, he was very upset with how the game ended. He felt that the final two pitches to Richards were strikes.
Its a poor way to lose a game, Steele said. We put ourselves in this position. But its quite a situation to have an umpire give a team its first win.
Liberty took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Richards led off the frame with a single and subsequently stole second and third. He scored on a sacrifice bunt by Blume. The next batter, Garritt, singled and scored later in the inning when Corey Pazzalia smashed a triple to left field.
Seward (5-3) answered with four runs in the top of the third. With the bases loaded, James McAteer and Justin Gancher hit back-to-back singles to give the Spartans a 3-2 lead. Bryan Folkl followed with a sacrifice fly to make it a 4-2 game.
Seward added three runs in the fifth to take a 7-2 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, however, Liberty got a run back. Richards scored when Garritt hit a sacrifice fly to left field.
That closed the gap to 7-3 and paved the way for the Indians seventh-inning comeback.
Note: Prior to the game, the teams played the final few innings of a game they had started earlier this season but could not finish that day due to weather conditions. Seward scored three times in the seventh inning to record a 5-4 win in that contest.
Richards was tagged with the loss despite striking out 14 Seward batters.