HIGH POINT, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) - Liberty starter Patrick Eckelbarger pitched a four-hit shutout and freshman Alex Close hit a three-run home run to lead the No. 3-seeded Flames to a 7-0 win over No. 2 Campbell in Game 8 of the 2012 Big South Baseball Championship presented by Brookwood Farms BBQ and Triangle Rent A Car at Williard Stadium on the campus of High Point University. The Flames improve to 40-19 and advance to Game 11 on Friday against the winner of No. 4 Gardner-Webb-No. 5 Radford. Campbell falls to 41-17 and will play No. 7 High Point in an elimination game later this evening.
The Flames jumped out to a 4-0 lead before making an out. Ian Parmley led off with a single and Andy Smith reached on a hit-by-pitch. Parmley and Smith then moved up a base on a double steal, and Parmley scored on Michael Robertson's grounder to shortstop to Brent Graham, whose errant throw allowed Robertson on base. Close then belted a three-run home run over the left field wall for the initial four-run advantage. It was Close's 14th homer of the season, breaking the Big South freshman record of 13.
Campbell starter Hector Cedano settled down afterward and retired the next 16 batters until Robertson reached on an error with one out in the sixth inning. Liberty would capitalize on the miscue one out later when Bryan Aanderud singled to center to put runners on the corners, and new designated hitter Justin Sizemore doubled off the wall in left to score Robertson and Aanderud for a 6-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Eckelbarger limited Campbell to one hit through five innings. After allowing a single to Graham in the third, he set down 10 consecutive batters until Ben McQuown singled through the right side for Campbell's second hit. He was the Camels' first runner to reach second after Michael Felton followed with a single up the middle. But Eckelbarger got Jake Kirkland to pop out to short to keep the Camels off the scoreboard. The Flames scored in the top of the eighth for the final 7-0 lead.
Eckelbarger allowed just four hits and a walk while fanning seven in his third complete game of the season. He improves to 7-1 and gave Liberty its first shutout in the Big South Tournament since 2007. The Flames also reached 40 wins for the third time in school history.
Close finished with two hits and three RBI to lead the offense. Robertson and Sizemore also knocked in two runs each.
Graham, Felton, McQuown and Ben Fish accounted for Campbell's four hits. Cedano suffered the loss after allowing seven runs (four earned) in his seven innings on the mound. He struck out four while falling to 3-2. It was the first time Campbell was shutout this season.
Liberty Head Coach Jim Toman
"Patrick Eckelbarger may have given us the best outing of his career today. As a team, our guys played real well today and we put ourselves in good shape for tomorrow."
Campbell Head Coach Greg Goff
"The big difference today was on the mound. (Patrick Eckelbarger) was unbelievable and could have beaten anyone in this game. We just couldn't put any hits together. Our club will have to regroup to take on High Point tonight."