Liberty built an early lead and held on to eliminate Clemson with a 3-1 victory in game five of the NCAA Columbia Regional on Sunday afternoon at Carolina Stadium.
With the win the Flames (36-28) advance to face South Carolina tonight at 7 in the final. The Gamecocks need just one win to advance to the Super Regionals, while Liberty would have to win tonight and in an if necessary game on Monday. The Flames have now won two NCAA Tournament games in the same season for the first time in school history.
Liberty starting hurler Trey Lambert (8-3) picked up the win after delivering a strong performance to put the Flames in position to advance. The junior right-hander scattered seven hits and allowed just one run across 7 2/3 innings of work. He had one strikeout and walked two batters.
The Flames collected eight hits on the afternoon, including a 4-for-4 effort from senior second baseman Bryan Aanderud. The four hits are a season high and match a career high for Aanderud, who drove in two runs. Senior catcher Trey Wimmer had a single and a RBI in the win.
Clemson (40-22) tallied eight hits as well, with sophomore catcher Garrett Boulware leading the way with a 3-for-4 day. Freshman right fielder Steven Duggar added a pair of hits in the loss.
Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Crownover (7-3) was tagged with the loss after surrendering two runs and five hits in four innings on the mound.
After three scoreless innings to begin the game, the Tigers struck first in the top of the fourth. Duggar lined a double to right center to lead off the inning, and Boulware followed with a single up the middle to drive in Duggar to give Clemson a 1-0 lead. The Tigers threatened to do more damage as they had runners on second and third with one out. However, freshman Tyler Krieger lined out to second, and junior Joe Costigan lined into a double play to end the inning.
The Flames carried the momentum from getting out of the jam to the plate as they pushed across a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame to take the lead. Junior center fielder Ryan Cordell and Wimmer delivered back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, and designated hitter Danny Grauer was hit by a Crownover pitch to load the bases with no outs. Aanderud followed with a single to left field, driving in Cordell and Wimmer to give Liberty a 2-1 lead. That was all the damage the Flames were able to do, however, as Clemson pulled off a double play with the bases loaded to end the threat. Freshman Dalton Britt flew out to Tiger left fielder Tyler Slaton, who fired the ball home to get Aanderud out at the plate.
Liberty added to its lead in the fifth. Right fielder Ashton Perritt singled and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Wimmer to give the Flames a 3-1 advantage.
Perritt later came up big on the mound as he took over for Lambert in the eighth and worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings to preserve the win and pick up his 10th save of the season. Perritt allowed just one hit, walked one and had one strikeout.
Tonight's matchup between the Gamecocks and Flames will be broadcast on ESPN3. Live stats will be available at Gamecocksonline.com.