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Epic comeback falls just short as VMI falls to ETSU, 14-12

The VMI Keydets nearly rallied from a pair of 10-run deficits, but Logan Gentry struck out potential tying run Ryan Hatten to end the game as the ETSU Bucs held on for a 14-12 win in SoCon baseball action Friday in Lexington, Va. With the loss, VMI is assured of playing in Tuesday’s single elimination first round game of the 2017 Southern Conference Championship.

vmi baseballVMI (22-31, 7-16 SoCon) had rallied from deficits of 10-0 and 13-3 to cut the ETSU (26-27, 8-15) lead to 14-9 entering the ninth. Tyler Tharp and Peyton Maddox started the inning with singles and Collin Fleischer followed with a three-run homer, his 15th of the year, to make it a two-run game. Gentry came on and retired Ryan Smoot and Matt Dunlevy, but Garrett St. Laurent walked to bring up pinch-hitter Hatten. He worked the count to 2-2 but struck out on an offspeed pitch away, ending the game.

Offensively, the Keydets got a four-hit game from Fleischer, his first this season, and the junior moved into a tie with John Parrott for third on the all-time VMI home run list. Matt Pita and Peyton Maddox, who each had three hits, also went deep, while Tharp added three hits of his own and moved within three total bases of the VMI single-season record in that statistic (Cory Spangenberg, 140, 2010).

Three players – Aaron Maher, Jammer Strickland and Hunter Parker – had three hits for ETSU.

Things looked bleak for the Keydets early, as Ryan Bennett – making his first start in over a year – left in the third inning with VMI down 10-0. The teams then traded three-run frames, and going to the bottom of the fourth, it was 13-3, ETSU. The Keydets then scored six of the game’s next seven runs by plating two in each of the next three innings, capped by Maddox’s two-run homer in the seventh. That blast made it 14-9, and Michael Geary pitched three one-hit innings to close out the ballgame and give the final VMI rally a chance. It proved to be too little, too late, however.

On the mound, Bennett took the loss to drop to 5-1. He was charged with 10 runs in 2 2/3 innings after having given up just 14 runs all season coming into the game. Blake Smith (4-6) allowed five runs in five innings and got the win, while Gentry recorded his first save.

VMI and ETSU close out their series, and the regular season, Saturday at 1 p.m. in Lexington. That game, along with The Citadel’s game against Wofford, will determine VMI’s opponent in Tuesday’s first round.

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