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Keydet rally falls short

Gardner-Webb scored nine runs in the first three innings Saturday night, and a VMI rally fell short as the Runnin’ Bulldogs defeated the Keydets, 10-7, in Big South baseball action in Lexington, Va.

GWU (16-7-1, 4-4) scored three runs in the second inning, helped by a pair of errors and several other Keydet miscues, but the visitors then tacked on six more in the third. The Runnin’ Bulldogs sent 11 men to the plate in that frame, had six hits and knocked out Keydet starter Jason Farley (1-5).

The Keydets chipped away, getting within three in the eighth, when they brought the tying man to the plate. Jeff Howell retired Graham Sullivan, who went 4 for 5 in the loss, with two men on to end the threat and VMI could not mount a rally in the ninth.

Farley took the loss for VMI, as he lasted two innings and gave up seven runs, five earned, in the setback. Conner Scarborough went to 5-0 with the win for Gardner-Webb, going five innings and giving up four runs. Howell recorded his third save with 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief.

“Today was a much different game than we’d been in all year,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “Jason Farley and Travis Thomas have both done good things for us this year, but they got to both of them early and did a nice job building that nine-run lead. I’m extremely proud of the way we competed and battled back, helped by Campbell Henkel’s strong effort out of the bullpen. We talk about never being out of a game with our offense, and it showed today. We were one big hit away from completing this comeback.”

Gardner-Webb got on the board in the second, as Zeke Blanton led off with a triple down the right-field line. One out later, Danny Yelverton reached on an error that allowed Blanton to score. Another VMI error put two runners on, and a wild pitch and passed ball followed, allowing Yelverton to cross the plate. A second wild pitch brought home another run, giving the visitors a 3-0 lead.

GWU added six runs in the third, as the first six hitters reached against Keydet pitchers. Brad Collins started the scoring with an RBI single, and Yelverton added an RBI single as well, making it 5-0, GWU. Travis Thomas relieved Farley, only to hit a batter and walk home a run, putting the Keydets down 6-0. Aaron Miller then drove home a run on a fielder’s choice, Jake Watts had an infield hit and Daniel Merck hit into a fielder’s choice to drive in runs as well, accounting for the six runs and the 9-0 GWU advantage.

The Keydets began chipping away in the third, as Sullivan drove in Justin Hess with a double, and Alex Haitsuka drove Sullivan home with an RBI single. The two hits cut the VMI deficit to 9-2, and after Watts made it 10-2 with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, Jacob Morley drove home two with an RBI single in the fifth.

The home team then added two more in the sixth, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Sam Roberts and a single by Sullivan, making it 10-6 in favor of Gardner-Webb. Meanwhile, Campbell Henkel, who had come on in relief to finish the third inning, allowed only two hits from the fourth through the eighth. For the day, the freshman had a career-long 5 2/3 innings of work, allowing just one run on three hits.

That gave the Keydet a chance to continue to rally, and Rob Dickinson continued the comeback in the eighth with a lead-off double. One out later, Chase Worthington had a sacrifice fly, cutting the margin to three, 10-7. Justin Hess was hit by a pitch, and Sam Roberts worked a walk to set up a showdown between Sullivan and GWU’s Howell. Howell induced a fly ball to center field to end the inning, and the Keydets managed just one baserunner in the ninth.

Sullivan led the way for VMI with his third career four-hit game, while Dickinson chipped in with a 3 for 4 effort. Watts and Quattlebaum had three hits apiece for Gardner-Webb.

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