JMU wins in walkoff fashion in opener with VCU
Junior second baseman Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glendale) lined a three-run home run off the top of the fence to cap a five-run inning and make James Madison an instant winner, 13-11, over VCU in the opening game of a Colonial Athletic Association baseball series on Friday night at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
With the win, JMU improved to 16-29-2 overall and 10-15 in the CAA with nine wins in its last 13 conference games. VCU, which had won seven of its last 10 games, fell to 28-22 overall and 13-15 in the league.
Having trailed 7-2 after two innings, VCU took the lead with a three-run sixth and carried an 11-8 advantage into the bottom of the ninth with elite closer Blake Hauser taking the hill. JMU loaded the bases with one out as singles by junior third baseman Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) and sophomore designated hitter Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) sandwiched a walk by junior center fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield).
Senior first baseman Evan Scott (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) brought the Dukes within one with a two-run single to left to make it 11-10. A wild pitch pushed both runners into scoring position. On the second pitch of the at bat, the left-handed Goss tagged a fastball that bounced off the top of the high wall in right field and bounced over for the walk-off, three-run homer.
It was the first round tripper of the season for Goss, who had not driven in three runs in an entire game all season before his three-run blast. It was also JMU’s first walk-off home run since Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) against Layfayette on March 4.
Freshman Ben Garner (Burke, Va./Paul VI) allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings but benefited from the rally to earn the win and improve to 2-3. Freshman Patrick Toohers (Florham Park, N.J./Seton Hall Prep) allowed seven runs, five earned, in 5 1/3 innings as the starter.
Hauser took the loss for the Rams to fall to 4-2. He entered the day with a 2.22 ERA (seven total earned runs) and just nine hits allowed (.095 average) in 28 1/3 innings before being tagged for five runs on four hits by the Dukes. Starter Ryan Farrar had allowed 27 earned runs in 80 2/3 innings before surrendering seven to the Dukes. In between, Matt Lees tossed 3 1/3 no-hit innings with one run allowed.
In addition to the two-run double, Scott also lifted a three-run home run in the game for five RBIs. Scott also walked three times as the two teams combined for 20 walks in the game. McInturff was 3-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored. McFarland was 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
Right fielder Taylor Buran and designated hitter Chris Ayers each drove in three runs for the Rams. Ayers, catcher Nick Abrahamson and center fielder Bill Cullen each had multiple hits.
The early innings were full of scoring as VCU loaded the bases with no outs in the first on a ground-rule double by Cullen along with a hit by pitch and a walk. Cullen scored on a fielder’s choice groundout, but a 5-4-3 double play prevented further scoring.
In the bottom of the frame, McInturff flared a single to left followed by a McFarland hit by pitch. Scott then rocketed a three-run shot to straightaway center field to clear the bases with his fifth home run of the season.
VCU took advantage of an error in the second. A single by shortstop Vimael Machin and a walk put the first two batters on base. After a failed bunt and a groundout left two in scoring position with two outs, the Rams brought in their second run of the game on a fielding error at second base.
JMU answered again in the second as junior Colby Roberts (Benton, Ark./Benton) drew a one-out walk and senior right fielder Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) singled. With two outs, McInturff laced a single to right center to plate Roberts for a 4-2 lead. With runners on the corners, McInturff stole second and both runs scored on a slow single through the left side by McFarland to make it 6-2. A wild pitch brought in another run to make it 7-2.
The back-and-forth scoring continued in the third as Buran drew a one-out walk for VCU and scored on a double deep to left center by Ayers to make it 7-3. With two outs, first baseman Brent Mikionis singled through the right side and Ayers slid in safely just ahead of the throw from right field.
Left fielder Paul Nice led off the VCU fourth with a single. He stole second and reached third on a throwing error on the play. Nice scored on the next play as Cullen struck out but reached on a passed ball.
VCU loaded the bases in the sixth on 12 straight balls delivered by JMU pitchers. After a flyout to make it two outs, third baseman Joey Cujas struck out but reached first on a wild to extend the inning and score a run to make it 7-6. Buran then delivered a two-run single up the middle to put VCU in front at 8-7.
The Rams added to the lead in the eighth as Ayers lofted a double deep to the track in right center to plate two and make it 10-7.
The first two JMU batters in the eighth reached on walks and advanced a base on a grounder. Freshman shortstop Chad Carroll (Oakton, Va./Oakton) grounded out to bring in one run and make it 10-8.
The Rams padded the lead in the ninth as a single by Abrahamson and a sacrifice bunt set the stage for Cullen’s RBI single to center to make it 11-8 and set the stage for the JMU uprising in the ninth.