Big inning lifts ODU past VMI
With the game tied, 1-1, ODU (3-3) second baseman P.J. Higgins homered to left center to lead off the third, and put the Monarchs ahead to stay. Higgins was the first of 15 hitters in the inning, as the visitors took advantage of a wild pitch, two errors, seven hits and two walks to post the 10 runs and go up, 11-1. The Keydets scored the next four runs, but left the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings to fall short in their comeback attempt.
Both teams posted 13 hits on the day, but VMI (3-6) left 13 men on base in the setback. The Keydet offense was led by shortstop Nick Dwyer, who is now hitting an even .500 for the season. Dwyer went 3 for 4 on the day with two doubles, while three other Keydets added two hits apiece. Austin McGowan and Higgins had three hits for ODU.
ODU jumped ahead in the first, when McGowan had a one-out double and Josh Eldridge followed with a RBI single. TJ Lighton got out of the inning with no further damage, however, and the Keydets struck in the bottom half. Jordan Tarsovich led off with a single, and Ray Lopez followed with one of his own. Rob Dickinson then had a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Tarsovich and tying the game, 1-1.
Sheldon Shifflett had a two-out double in the VMI second, but did not score, and ODU erupted in the third. A one-out fielding error helped open the door, and later in the inning, a throwing error following a Jonathan Kelley wild pitch compounded problems as well. The 10-run inning gave ODU a 10-run margin, 11-1.
The Keydets got one back in the third, as a Tarsovich sacrifice fly scored Drew Bryan, who had tripled to lead off the frame. VMI nearly had more after loading the bases with two outs, but ODU right-hander Tommy Alexander struck out Brandon Angus to end the threat.
The VMI bullpen then took over and settled things down, and the Keydets grabbed two more runs in the fifth. Dickinson led off with a single, and went to third when Nick Dwyer doubled to deep left-center, a drive that just eluded Monarch center fielder Connor Myers. Cody Holder had a sacrifice fly, and Angus followed with a RBI double to make it an 11-4 game. Once again, however, the Keydets loaded the bases with two outs and did not capitalize.
After Angus’ double, Shifflett grounded out. Matt Winn then walked after a nine-pitch at-bat, and Bryan walked as well. That brought Tarsovich to the plate and ODU coach Chris Finwood out of the dugout for a pitching change. Finwood went to right-hander Erick Baker, who retired Tarsovich on a liner to center to end the threat.
The final run of the game came in the VMI sixth, when Dickinson tripled with one out. Dwyer followed with a drive to right that narrowly eluded right fielder Brian Beard for a double, allowing a run to score and accounting for the final margin, 11-5.
Lighton took the loss for VMI, falling to 0-2 after giving up eight runs (seven earned) in 2 1/3 innings. He surrendered six hits, walked one and struck out three. Kelley was tagged for three unearned runs at the end of the third inning, but the remainder of the VMI bullpen allowed just four hits over the remainder of the contest, including Andrew Woods’ 16-pitch, two-inning no-hit effort.
Baker (1-0) got the win in relief for the Monarchs.
“With the exception of that third inning, I thought our bullpen did a great job,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “Obviously they were able to get good swings against TJ Lighton and Jonathan Kelley, but our other four pitchers – Miles McQuaig, Andrew Woods, Andrew Montague and John Garrett – really threw the ball well tonight. I was proud of the way our offense battled tonight, and felt like a big hit in the bases loaded situations really would have made this a close ball game. I can’t speak highly enough of the fight we had in the dugout tonight, even though we were down. It was a great sign.”
VMI baseball is back in action Friday, opening a four-game series against Binghamton at Gray-Minor Stadium. Game time is set for 4 p.m.