Bullpen fuels VMI win over Virginia Tech, 5-3

vmiSix VMI relievers combined for 5 2/3 shutout innings with nine strikeouts, helping the Keydets down the Virginia Tech Hokies, 5-3, Tuesday night in Lexington, Va. It was just VMI’s second win over Virginia Tech in Lexington since 1969.

Virginia Tech (10-16) took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on a two-run homer by Sam Fragale, but Jack Gomersall relieved Eric Byrd later in that frame and got out of a two-on, one-out jam without further damage. That started the 5 2/3 shutout inning run from six Keydet (15-13) relievers, and the Keydets would rally to tie the game in the fifth and take the lead for good one inning later.

TJ Lighton picked up the victory (1-0) with a shutout inning that included two strikeouts. It was Lighton’s first win since April 9, 2013 and the second of his five career victories to come against the Hokies. Taylor Edens pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his fifth save.

Ryan Lauria (1-1) gave up three runs, two earned, in 1 1/3 innings to take the loss.

VMI jumped ahead in the first inning on the clear, 69-degree evening. David Geary doubled with one out, and Collin Fleischer followed with a hard single up the middle to stake the home team to a 1-0 lead.

Tech tied the game in the third against starter Micah Gorman. Matt Dauby led off with a double and Andrew Mogg followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Rahiem Cooper bounced into a double play, scoring Dauby to tie the game, 1-1. Gorman struck out Ryan Tufts, but the ball bounced away from Peyton Maddox to allow Tufts to reach, and Phil Sciretta was hit by a pitch. Nick Anderson then singled to left, but in one of the evening’s key plays, Matt Pita threw a strike to the plate to nail Tufts and end the inning.

Tech then took the lead in the fourth on Fragale’s two-run shot, but with runners at second and third, Gomersall came on in relief and Cooper hit a humpback liner right at Geary for the second out. Tufts then grounded out to end the threat.

The Keydets rallied in the fifth, when Will Malbon singled with one out. Nathan Eaton followed with a double, and after Geary popped out, Fleischer doubled home two runs to tie the game, 3-3.

VMI then took the lead for good in the sixth. Peyton Maddox reached to open the inning and two outs later, Matt Dunlevy followed with a double to right center. Dunlevy was thrown out attempting to advance to third, but Maddox crossed the plate before that out was recorded and put VMI up, 4-3.

That margin grew in the eighth, when Geary led off with a single and Fleischer was hit by a pitch. Maddox put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners, and Tyler Tharp walked. With the infield in, Pita – who had struck out in each of his previous three at-bats – lofted a sacrifice fly to left to score Geary and give VMI a 5-3 lead.

Edens needed just 14 pitches in the ninth to retire the side in order for his fifth save.

Offensively, the Keydets were led by Fleischer and Geary, who had two hits apiece. Fleischer drove in three of VMI’s five runs and Geary scored a pair. Three Virginia Tech players had two hits for the visitors.

VMI baseball will return to action Wednesday, when the Keydets travel to Farmville to take on the Longwood Lancers. Game time is set for 6 p.m.

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