RADFORD, Va. -- Radford defeated Liberty 4-1 in the first game of a doublheader Friday, ending Liberty’s 20-game Big South winning streak.
Liberty falls to 38-13 overall and 22-2 in Big South play. Liberty entered the contest having won 20 straight conference contests and had not lost to a Big South opponent since dropping a 6-5 decision in 13 innings to Campbell in the second game of a doubleheader on March 15. Radford improves to 31-20 overall and 16-9 in the Big South Conference. With 31 wins on the season, the Highlanders tie their school record for wins in a season.
Liberty first baseman Alex Close had two hits, including his seventh home run of the season in the contest. It is the 16th time this season that the first baseman has had two or more hits in a game.
Radford plated the game’s first run in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, third baseman Hunter Higgerson dropped a single into left field. Two batters later, designated hitter Zach Woolcock beat the throw to first on a high bouncing ground ball behind the second base for an infield single. On the play, Higgerson came around to score to give the Highlanders a 1-0 edge.
Radford added a two runs in the third. Center fielder Luke Wise reached on a fielding error by Flames shortstop Dalton Britt to open the inning. After Wise moved to second on a throwing error by Liberty catcher Danny Grauer on a pickoff attempt, second baseman Josh Gardiner doubled into the right field corner for a 2-0 Highlander lead. Later in the inning, right fielder Shane Johnsonbaugh singled with two outs and the bases loaded, extending the Highlander advantage to 3-0.
In the top of the fifth, Liberty got on the scoreboard on Close’s home run. With one out, Close belted a 1-1 offering by Highlander pitcher Mike Costello over the left field wall, cutting the Radford lead to 3-1.
The host Highlanders pushed their advantage back to three runs in the sixth. With two outs, first baseman Nygeal Andrews walked and moved to second on a bunt single by Wise. Gardiner followed with a run-scoring single to give Radford a 4-1 lead.
Liberty starting pitcher Trey Lambert drops to 10-2 on the season. The right-hander allowed three runs, one earned, on five hits over four innings. He struck out three and walked two batters.
Costello, the second of four Radford pitchers in the contest, moves to 4-2 on the season. The reliever gave up one run on four hits. He struck out four and walked one. Ryan Meisinger pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings to earn his fourth save of the season.