Region Roundup: Liberty football lands two transfers via portal, Appomattox's Mann fires no-hitter, and more (2024)

By Bryson Gordon & Ben CatesThe News & Advance

The Liberty football program received a boost through the transfer portal on Friday, securing pledges from two Power 5 transfers, one on each side of the ball.

The first commitment came by way of North Carolina State wide receiver transfer Julian Gray, who announced on his X profile that he’ll join the Flames in 2024.

In 28 career appearances for the Wolfpack in three seasons, Gray caught 30 passes for 293 yards and one touchdown.

Most of Gray’s production came in the kick return game; he finished fourth in the ACC last season with 442 kick return yards, including an 82-yard return for a touchdown against VMI that secured him an ACC special teams player of the week award.

Gray was a four-star receiver out of high school, ranked 50th in the 2021 wide receiver class. He turned down offers from Duke, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Wake Forest, among others, to play N.C. State.

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The 5-foot-11, 190-pound wideout has two years of eligibility remaining.

On defense, edge rusher Brenton Williams, an Auburn transfer, announced his intentions to play for the Flames this fall. After entering the portal in mid-April, Williams (6-foot-3, 245-pounds) fielded offers from West Virginia and Florida Atlantic.

In his only season at Auburn, playing under former Liberty coach Hugh Freeze, Williams appeared in just two contests. Out of high school, he was a three-star, top-65 defensive end prospect nationally, according to 247 Sports.

His high school decision came down to Coastal Carolina, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Kansas and Liberty’s Conference USA foe, Jacksonville State, among several other offers.

Williams has four years of eligibility remaining.

Flames use playoff to defeat UTEP, claim first CUSA golf championship

A long day on the links at Texarkana Country Club in Arkansas turned into a joyful one for the Liberty men's golf team, who used extra holes to down UTEP, 3-2, in the Conference USA golf championships Thursday.

Flames sophom*ore Josh Ryan and UTEP's Dylan Teter, who were sent off as the opening match of the finals, dueled until they were the last group on the course, with Ryan overcoming a 3-down deficit after seven holes to secure the winning point for Liberty in 23 holes.

Behind Ryan, the other four matches were split 2-2, with Liberty's Ike Joy winning a point 3 and 2, while Isaac Simmons (Jefferson Forest) held on down the stretch to win his match 1 up.

The Flames played 36 holes Thursday to take home their first CUSA golf championship, knocking off second-seeded Sam Houston 3-1-1 in the morning semifinal session to advance to the title.

The win gives the Flames their eighth conference title in program history and their fourth-straight tournament appearance since the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liberty now awaits a regional assignment for the NCAA Tournament during the selection show on May 1. Regionals begin on Monday, May 13.


Appomattox's Mann throws no-hitter

The no-hitters keep piling up for Lynchburg area teams, especially for Appomattox softball.

On Friday, Raiders pitcher Paisley Mann fired a no-hitter, becoming the third Appomattox player to record an outstanding pitching performance in less than two weeks. On April 15, Appomattox's Chloe Vaughan threw a no-hitter against Nelson County. Then, on Wednesday, Bree Carrico, a Virginia Tech signee, tossed a perfect game against Dan River, striking out 10 of the 18 batters she faced in a five-inning blowout.

Mann went the distance Friday at Gretna, giving up no runs, walking four and striking out 15 of the 25 batters she faced. She threw 72 of her 112 pitches for strikes.

Mann's performance brought the number of no-hitters in the Lynchburg area (baseball and softball included) since April 15 to eight. There also have been two perfect games in that span.

In another softball feat Friday, this one also in the Dogwood District, Altavista's Emma Andrews blasted a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning, as the Colonels completed a comeback against William Campbell, 12-8, in a game that featured four home runs— all hit in the sixth and seventh innings.


Hillcats 3, Myrtle Beach 2

At Bank of the James Stadium, Lynchburg leapt over the .500 mark and won its third straight game, as a trio of pitchers combined to hold visiting Myrtle Beach to five hits and record 12 strikeouts on Friday night.

Jackson Humphries (3 IP, 1 H, 4 Ks), Yorman Gomez (5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks) and Steven Perez (1IP, 1 H, 1 K) were dominant against the Pelicans (6-12). Gomez earned the win and Perez picked up the save.

Lynchburg scored twice in the bottom of the second off a two-run single by Jose Pastrano. Myrtle Beach countered with a two-run single in the fourth by Christopher Paciolla. But Juan Benjamin provided the game-deciding run in the fifth, when he singled to left to drive in Ralphy Velazquez, who doubled earlier in the frame.

The two teams meet again Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

On Thursday, the Hillcats also enjoyed dominant pitching performances from a trio of pitchers who combined for 20 strikeouts. in a 3-0 victory.

Starter Matt Wilkinson dazzled the most, pitching six no-hit innings to begin the game while recording 15 strikeouts over the 19 batters he faced. He allowed just one baserunner, issuing a walk in the fourth inning.

The Hillcats carried a no-no into the eighth inning, when reliever Joshua Harlow allowed a one-out double. He struck out the next two batters, adding to the Hillcats 20 Ks on the evening.

Wilkinson is the first Hillcats pitcher to record 14-plus strikeouts in a game since Triston McKenzie racked up 14 against the Carolina Mudcats in 2017.

Lynchburg opened up the scoring in the third inning after Luis Durango drove in Tommy Hawke, who began the inning with a double. Two batters later, Christian Knapczyk drove Durango home.

Jaison Chourio drew two walks and came around to score on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth to give Lynchburg a 3-0 lead.

"Tugboat" Wilkinson's night was a continuation of his scorching start to the season.

Thursday's performance lowered his ERA to 0.44 in20 ⅔ innings. He has allowed just six hits and one earned run while striking out 41 opposing batters.



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Region Roundup: Liberty football lands two transfers via portal, Appomattox's Mann fires no-hitter, and more (2024)
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