Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
5 Things to Know About Liberty
Liberty right-hander Trey Lambert is 11-2 this season with a 2.10 earned run average.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas will face Liberty in its first game at the Charlottesville regional Friday.
The Flames were one of the most consistent teams from a non-major conference all season. Liberty finished the year 41-16 overall and won the Big South Conference regular season championship before being upset in the conference tournament.
Here are five things to know about Liberty heading into Friday's matchup:
Pitching: Like Arkansas, the Flames have a top-flight pitching staff. Liberty's season earned run average is 2.62 and ranks 14th nationally, just ahead of the Razorbacks' 2.63 ERA. The Flames are led on the mound by Friday starter Trey Lambert, who is 11-2 this season with a 2.10 ERA. Lambert, a senior right-hander, averages nearly 7 innings per start and has 26 career wins.
Hitting: Liberty has a .276 team batting average with three players batting .300 or above. The Flames are led offensively by junior infielder Ryan Seiz, who is hitting .362 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs. Seiz played two seasons at Louisville before transferring to Liberty. Alex Close leads the team with 45 RBIs.
SEC Ties: Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn knows Liberty coach Jim Toman well. Toman was an 18-year assistant coach to Ray Tanner at North Carolina State and South Carolina before taking the Flames' head coaching position in 2008. Toman was the recruiting coordinator who helped assemble the upperclassmen on the Gamecocks' national championship winning team in 2010.
Well-Tested: Liberty played several nonconference games against the ACC this season and also beat Missouri from the SEC. The Flames were 4-4 against teams in this year's NCAA regionals, including a win over Clemson and a loss at Virginia.
Proximity: Liberty's campus is located in Lynchburg, Va., only 70 miles from Charlottesville. The Flames will be the road team on the scoreboard Friday, but will likely be the home team in the stands.