Except for one thing, it was nearly a perfect night for Matt Pierpont and the Winthrop baseball team.
Of course, that one thing was mostly the only thing that happened.
A four-run second inning was just about extent of the action Friday night, and since those runs belonged to Liberty, it marred an otherwise sparkling evening for the Eagles’ starting pitcher in a 7-0 loss at The Winthrop Ballpark.
“He’s an ultra-competitive kid,” Winthrop coach Tom Riginos said of Pierpont. “He didn’t have great fastball command, but he did a good job throwing his change-up and curve for strikes. He really settled down after that inning, and competed.
“That’s the sign of a competitor, he didn’t have his best stuff, but still gave us a chance to win.”
Pierpont scattered 11 hits in eight and two-thirds innings, but set a new career high with 10 strikeouts. It eclipsed his previous high set earlier this year against Holy Cross, and was a fair indicator of his night on the whole.
Except for that one inning.
Liberty opened the top of the second with a walk and a single, but when a sacrifice bunt went for a hit (thanks to some fielding confusion between Pierpont and third baseman Leighton Daniels), the bases were loaded with no outs.
“That was a key,” Riginos said. “There was a miscommunication on the bunt, and we talked about that. They’re the kind of team that’s going to put pressure on you.
“If that doesn’t happen, maybe we get out of there down 2-0, and it changes everything.”
Flames catcher Trey Wimmer then unloaded them with a three-RBI double, and came around to score on Dalton Sype’s single.
After that, Pierpont settled into a groove, striking out six of the next 10 Liberty batters, allowing only a pair of infield singles until the seventh.
Liberty (29-8, 8-2) scratched together a run in the ninth off Pierpont with a leadoff double and a pair of sacrifice bunts, squeezing home an insurance run. Flames shortstop Zack Haley drove in two more with a double off reliever Steven Howell for the final margin.
The problem for Winthrop (11-24, 4-6) was a familiar one — an utter lack of offense.
The Eagles had pushed their batting average to .219 entering the game (and that’s after a torrid two weeks), but only put hits together in the bottom of the fifth, when they left the bases loaded.
They finished with five hits on the night, with centerfielder T.J. Olesczuk going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.
Riginos stopped short of calling it a return to previous ways, point to their five strikeouts and a number of well-hit outs.
“I thought our approach was still good,” Riginos said. “It’s not a regression until you start seeing nine, 10, 11 strikeouts. We had a lot of balls in play that just didn’t fall.”
The Eagles and Flames continue the Big South series Saturday at 3 p.m.
Liberty 7, Winthrop 0
Liberty: John Niggli, Jacob Kimmerer (9) and Trey Wimmer; Winthrop: Matt Pierpont, Stetson Nelson (9), Steven Howell (9) and Tyler Donovan and Austen Barber (9). WP - Niggli (7-0); LP - Pierpont (3-6). 2B: Liberty - Trey Wimmer, Ryan Cordell; Winthrop - None. 3B: None. HR: None.
Records: Liberty 29-8 (8-2); Winthrop 11-24 (4-6).