Liberty defeats #11 Georgia to advance to the Athens Regional Finals

Liberty used clutch hitting and strong pitching to defeat No. 11 Georgia 7-3 on Saturday. With the win, the Lady Flames advance to Sunday's Athens regional final.

The host Bulldogs started the game with a leadoff home run in the first to take a 1-0 lead. The Flames proved they were going to be tough at the end of the first period when Rachel Roupe scored on Megan Fortner's sacrifice fly to tie the contest.

In the bottom of the second, Brooke Roberts completely destroyed a pitch that went over the scoreboard behind the right field fence. It was a two-run bomb that gave Liberty a 3-1 lead as Roberts, last week's CUSA Tournament MVP, continued her hot play.

Meanwhile, after allowing the first two Georgia batters to get on base, including the leadoff HR, Kaylan Yoder retired eight batters in a row. That streak ended in the third when the Bulldogs got their first three batters on base and loaded the bases. Liberty head coach Dot Richardson would turn to the bullpen and sign Elena Escobar. Georgia would score two runs to tie the game, but Escobar would limit the damage there as the Bulldogs left the bases loaded.

Once again, it was the fourth inning where the Lady Flames did most of their damage. In Friday's regional opener, Liberty scored five runs in the fourth inning to help the team to a 6-3 victory over Charlotte. On Saturday, the Flames scored four runs in the fourth and took control of the game 7-3. Brynn McManus hit a bases-clearing double, scoring three of those runs.

Replacing Yoder, Escobar pitched four innings, allowing no runs, allowing two hits and striking out three. It's the second straight day the senior picked up a win for the Flames after playing a complete game against the 49ers on Friday.

Liberty is now 6-9 against top-25 teams this season and has won three straight against ranked opponents, having defeated LSU in the regular season finale followed by wins over Charlotte and Georgia in the Athens Regional. The six wins over ranked opponents represent a program record for most top-25 wins in a single season.

The Lady Flames improve to 9-8 in NCAA Regional play under head coach Dot Richardson and 9-12 overall. This is only the second time Liberty has won its first two regional league games. In 2018, the Lady Flames won their first two games of the Columbia Regional, defeating Hofstra and South Carolina before losing twice to the Gamecocks in the regional final.

This is the fourth regional final Liberty has reached in the last six years, including two in a row. The Lady Flames are one win away from advancing to the program's first Super Regional.

No. 11 Georgia now awaits the winner of Saturday afternoon's elimination game between Charlotte and UNC Wilmington. The winner of that contest will face the Bulldogs in a game later Saturday, expected to take place at 4 p.m

The winner of that contest will advance to Sunday's regional final against Liberty, where the Lady Flames will have to lose twice to be eliminated. The game time and television location on Sunday have yet to be determined.

Anna Harden

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