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Bach’s gem leads VMI to 1-0 win over Longwood

vmi_logoConnor Bach and John Garrett combined on a four-hit shutout, leading the VMI Keydets to a 1-0 win over the Longwood Lancers in Big South baseball action Friday at Bolding Stadium. The win runs VMI’s (10-14, 2-2 Big South) win streak to four consecutive games, and marks the first 1-0 Keydet victory since April 2, 1988.

After the Keydets struck for a run in the first, Longwood (10-11, 2-2 Big South) had a chance in the second, when they put runners on the corners with one out against Bach. Blake Ream, however, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, and the Lancers would not have another runner in scoring position until the ninth.

In that frame, they put runners at the corners with one out, but Garrett induced an infield pop-up by Kyrie Washington and struck out Brandon Delk looking at a slider on the outside corner to preserve Bach’s first career win.

Bach (1-2) allowed just two hits over his eight sensational innings, walking three and striking out five. It was a career-long outing for the junior, as he became the fourth Keydet this year to earn his first collegiate victory. Kyler Morgan took the loss for Longwood, falling to 2-2 despite surrendering just five hits over seven strong innings.

Garrett allowed a double and single in the ninth but earned the save, the 10th of his career. The senior became the fifth Keydet relief pitcher ever to record double-digit saves in a career.

Meanwhile, the victory was VMI’s first 1-0 win since April 2, 1988, when the Keydets beat East Tennessee State in the second game of a doubleheader. It was the first Keydet shutout since Feb. 24 of last season, and equaled a season-low for hits allowed, accomplished previously on Feb. 24 against UMES. Finally, VMI’s four-game winning streak against in-state opponents is the Institute’s longest such run since April 1-7, 2008, when the Keydets prevailed in five straight games against foes from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Keydets struck for the only run they would need in the first. With one out, Will Connerley hit a dribbler between the mound and plate, just down the first base line. Pitcher Morgan came off the mound to field the ball, but could not grip it cleanly and failed to make a throw to first base, resulting in an error. Connerley immediately took advantage, stealing second and scoring on a RBI single by Rob Dickinson for an unearned run, and a 1-0 Keydet lead.

VMI threatened again in the second, putting a runner at second with only one out, but Brandon Angus was caught stealing third for the second out, and the rally went for naught. Longwood then put together a rally in the bottom half of the inning. Scott Burkett walked to lead off the frame, and went to second on a balk. One out later, Delk singled to left, but Jordan Tarsovich got to the ball quickly and Burkett was held at third. That set up the inning-ending double play off the bat of Ream, ending the threat.

The Keydets got a runner to second in the third, as Tarsovich extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a double, but Morgan retired both Connerley and Dickinson to escape trouble.

Neither team could get a runner to scoring position again until the fifth, when Drew Bryan was on second base with two out. Connerley then walked, as did Dickinson, but Nick Dwyer grounded out to end the inning. Morgan also pitched around a runner on third, two out situation in the sixth to maintain the 1-0 score.

Bach walked the leadoff hitter in the sixth, as Travis Biddix was issued the free pass on a 3-2 pitch. One out later, C.J. Roth popped a bunt up toward second base. Bach backpedaled and attempted to make the catch, but slid to a knee as the ball came out of his glove. Fortunately for the Keydets, the ball did not roll far from the Keydet hurler and he was able to toss to Dwyer covering at second base, recording the force play on Biddix. Alex Owens then flied out to end the inning.

The Keydets had two on with one out in the eighth, but could not score, and the Lancers could not capitalize on a two-out walk in the bottom half. Tarsovich was hit by a pitch to open the ninth, but got no further, and Garrett came on to close out the win. Roth was retired to start the inning, but Owens followed by lacing a double down the right field line. Burkett then singled to right and Owens was quickly held at third, giving the Keydets a potential break when Angus had trouble coming up with the ball. Pitching Coach Travis Beazley went to the mound and afterwards, Garrett needed just seven pitches to retire Washington and Delk, preserving the 1-0 victory.

Offensively, no player for either team had more than one hit. Dickinson was credited with the game’s lone RBI, while Tarsovich had VMI’s lone extra base hit.

VMI baseball is back in action Saturday, as the Keydets play game two against Longwood in Farmville, Va. Game time is set for 4 p.m.