BOILING SPRINGS – Liberty scored four unearned runs in the top of the sixth Friday evening to create distance in a 5-0 win over Gardner-Webb to open a weekend Big South Conference softball series.
Gardner-Webb (12-26, 5-8 Big South) fell behind 1-0 in the first inning after an RBI single from the Flames' Alexia Taylor, but had a chance to even things in the bottom half.
Rachel Cumiskey led off the bottom of the first with a walk, then Megan Gibbons singled to the pitcher to get a pair on board with nobody out. Alia Booth's line drive to left field was caught for the first out and Liberty starter Julia DiMartino settled in from there, getting a strikeout and another fly ball to strand both runners.
Neither team could get any more offense going until Liberty's half of the sixth, but the Flames had two outs when their rally started. Jasmeen Click reached via an error with a runner on base to keep the inning alive and leadoff hitter Tori Zavodny coaxed a walk to load the bases.
Freshman slugger Amber Bishop drove a pitch through the left side to drive in a pair and push Liberty's lead to 3-0 – then Sarah Robertson belted a two-run double into the gap in left center for a 5-0 lead.
Ashley Wark came out of the pen to get out of the jam, but DiMartino would not allow Gardner-Webb to rally.
Gibbons singled to lead off the sixth and Callie Thornton walked with two outs, but DiMartino fanned the next batter to end the inning – and retired the Runnin' Bulldogs in order to end the game in the seventh.
Liberty (29-16, 11-2 Big South) had nine hits in the game, but stranded eight runners. DiMartino (11-6) went the distance, fanning six and allowing just three hits in the shutout effort.
Robertson (3-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI) was the big bat for Liberty on Friday.
Mackenzie Thompson (3-12) took the hard-luck loss in the circle for GWU, allowing just one earned run in 5.2 innings of work. She scattered nine hits (eight singles) in the start. Wark worked 1.1 scoreless frames out of the bullpen.
Gibbons (2-for-3) had two of Gardner-Webb's three hits in the game. Megan Champion (1-for-3) also had a base knock.
Gardner-Webb and Liberty will resume the series on Saturday afternoon, with a doubleheader set to begin at 1:00 pm inside Brinkley Softball Stadium.
The Runnin' Bulldogs will honor their four seniors prior to the start of Game One.