Eastern Kentucky scores three in the ninth, knocks off #18 Virginia in series opener
Eastern Kentucky (1-4) overcame a two-run deficit by plating three, ninth-inning runs to capture a 7-6 series-opening victory over No. 18 Virginia (2-3). The Cavaliers and Colonels will play game two on Saturday (Feb. 24) at 10 a.m.
The Colonels had the first two runners of the top of the ninth inning and benefited from two wild pitches and a Cavalier defensive miscue in the frame. The game-winning hit came off the bat of Tyler Romanik, a single down the right field line that scored Chris Botsoe.
The Cavaliers did not go away quietly and managed to get the first two runners aboard in the bottom of the ninth and eventually loaded the bases with two outs. Eastern Kentucky reliever Max Ford induced a game-ending ground out to record his first save of the season.
Virginia nearly pulled out a late-game comeback of its own, scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing 4-3, the Cavaliers received two-out RBI hits from Jake McCarthy (Scranton, Pa.) and freshman Alex Tappen (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.) to take a 6-4 lead.
The two-out RBI double for McCarthy in the eighth was the second of two, two-out RBI hits in the contest. His single in the bottom of the fourth tied the game at two. The junior finished the night, 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a run scored. For Tappen, the eighth inning RBI were the first two of his collegiate career. He has now hit safely in his last four games, finished with two hits and a run scored.
“Certainly a difficult loss on how we lost it there in the ninth,” head coach Brian O’Connor said. “I was proud of guys in the bottom of the eighth to score three runs and comeback to take the lead. We just couldn’t put them away and that’s to their (EKU) credit.”
Cavalier starting pitcher Daniel Lynch (Henrico, Va.) pitched into the seventh inning for the third time in his last four starts. He showed flashes of brilliance, retiring six-straight after surrendering a game-opening hit and later sat down nine in-a-row beginning in the top of the third. He struck out four batters and was charged with three of the four runs scored by EKU over the first seven frames.
Andy Weber (Aurora, Ohio) continued his hot hitting, adding two more base knocks to his season total. Dating back to last season, the junior has hit safely in nine-straight games and is 9-for-23 (.391) in five games this season.
Freshman Tanner Morris (Crozet, Va.) made his second start of the season as the team’s designated hitter and put forth a 2-for-3 effort, his first multi-hit game of his career. Classmate Andrew Abbott (Halifax, Va.) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and struck out two batters, upping his season total to five.
The series with Eastern Kentucky continues Saturday (Feb. 24) with the second game of a three-game set and is scheduled for a 10 a.m. first pitch. The Cavaliers will send right-hander Derek Casey (1-0) to the mound and he will be opposed by righty Austin Perry (0-0).