ASUN champion Liberty softball team looks to open eyes at NCAA Regional in Durham

The Flames open regional play Friday at noon against Georgia.
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 5:51 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - A 23-1 conference season culminated Saturday in a second-straight Atlantic Sun Championship for Liberty softball, as the Flames now set their sights on the NCAA gauntlet.

LU’s road to Oklahoma City will start in Durham, where the Flames will play Georgia for the first time ever, as 12-seeded host team Duke likely looms for the winner.

“The crowd is going to be louder,” said senior Lou Allan. “There’s going to be more people in those stands than you know what to do with, and you’re going to have to be laser-focused into the game, into what’s going on.”

Head coach Dot Richardson said part of the reason her team was so elated by the draw Sunday night was because of LU’s regular-season win over Duke in late April.

Emily Kirby tossed a complete game with nine punchouts in an 8-3 Flames win in Lynchburg, and she’s fired up about a potential rematch.

“It feels good,” she said. “For me, I’ve already faced their hitters, I know what they have, so it’s honestly like a sigh of relief, but also you can’t take it as, ‘Oh, we’ve beaten them once. We got it.’ You have to go for it. But it just gives you the confidence knowing that we’ve done it once, we can do it again. Just go right at ‘em.”

That win over Duke, then ranked ninth in the nation, is the highlight of Liberty’s resume, which featured 16 games against regional-bound opponents.

Richardson said the key to success now is channeling the heightened emotions that only grow stronger this time of year.

“When you look at some of our losses, there was no energy,” said Richardson. “And then when you see in our victories, the energy is there. It needs to be there, and that’s one thing that I think is electric. That’s how I play the game, that’s how I coach the game. There needs to be an energy that flows out of you and not within you, where you start being self-absorbed with how you’re hitting or you’re playing.

“That’s what we have a tendency to do when we don’t score in the first two innings or so. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not playing like I should,’ or, ‘I haven’t got a hit yet.’ That’s no, no, no, no, no. And that’s where my job is to bring it to their attention because we’re in this together. Whether you win or lose, we’re a team.”

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