The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

April 9, 2013

Raiders more than just offense

National recognition for Herd’s Blair; Concord looks to improve on road

It’s no secret that Liberty likes to score runs in bunches. Teams that are hitting well over .300 and averaging over 10 runs a game can do that.

On Monday, the Raiders proved they can compensate when that approach isn’t working like it usually does.

Liberty got its share of hits against Fayetteville, but they didn’t always translate into runs. But the pitching of Jordan Atkins and a defense that played errorless ball helped the Raiders win 6-3 in Glen Daniel.

“All sesaon we have been getting the big hit that would bust the game open, but we didn’t get it tonight,” coach J.J. Tabor said. “We don’t play small ball and things like that. We usually play for big innings, try to hang crooked numbers.”

The offense was not totally dormant. Sophomore Dylan Keel homered as part of a 2-for-3 day and Joey Lacek went 3-for-4. Meechie Brown and Austin Lyons had two hits apiece.

But Liberty (8-1), which was playing without Seth Prince and Jake Lacek, both of whom were sick, got a needed performance out of Atkins. The right-hander took a shutout into the sixth before the Pirates (7-6) touched him up for three runs.

But Atkins battled through it and blanked Fayetteville in the seventh for the complete game.

“That was a gutty performance,” Tabor said. “He had trouble getting his curveball over for strikes, but he pounded the strike zone with his fastball and got ahead in the count. He regained his composure (after the sixth) and got himself out of trouble.”

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Not that there was ever a doubt, but it’s obvious that Aaron Blair is Marshall’s big-game pitcher.

The junior right-hander dominated then-No. 19 Houston last Saturday in a 4-0 win. Blair had 11 strikeouts and allowed just four baserunners in the eight-inning two-hitter. He retired 14 straight batters at one point.

For his efforts, Blair was not only named the Conference USA Pitcher of the Week, but he also earned the Louisville Slugger National Pitcher of the Week as awarded by Collegiate Baseball on Monday.

Blair beat out Holy Cross outfielder Patrick Puentes and Tennessee Tech third baseman Daniel Miles for the honor.

The award came shortly after the announcement of the Conference USA Pitcher of the Week, which Blair won for the second time in the last three weeks.

Blair was one of three named to Collegiate Baseball’s Player of the Week list for the week ending April 7, alongside OF Patrick Puentes of Holy Cross and 3B Daniel Miles of Tennessee Tech.

It was the second C-USA honor in three weeks for Blair. The Las Vegas native was honored after his eight-strikeout shutout performance against West Virginia on March 18 in Charleston.

The outing against the Cougars continued a tear for Blair. He has five straight quality starts and has won his last four, during which time he has a 0.33 earned run average. He is averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings during that stretch.

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Concord currently sits in second place in the South division of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Mountain Lions have a power rating of 114, while division leader West Virginia State is at 128.42.

Coach Andrew Wright’s team visits Pitt-Johnstown at 1 p.m. today to start a six-game road trip, which might not be a good thing — Concord is 1-10 away from Athens this year.

After today’s doubleheader, the Mountain Lions (19-15, 14-6 WVIAC) will play twinbills at Davis & Elkins on Saturday and Sunday. The Senators are third in the South with a rating of 102.38.

— E-mail: gfauber@

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