Late HR lifts VCU past JMU
First baseman Brent Mikionis smacked a two-out, two-run home run in the ninth inning to lift VCU to a 10-8 win past James Madison in the final game of a Colonial Athletic Association weekend baseball series on Sunday afternoon at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
VCU improved to 30-22 for the season and clinched a spot in the six-team CAA championship with a 15-15 league slate. JMU fell to 16-31-2 overall and 10-17 in the league. The Dukes maintain a slim chance at reaching the tournament, but they need a sweep of Towson along with help in three other league series.
With the score knotted at 8-8, VCU went down on two quick outs in the ninth. However, Vimael Machin kept the inning going with a single to right center. Mikionis then got into a one-ball, two-strike pitch for a two-run shot to left field, his second of the game, to put the Rams ahead.
JMU put two runners on in the ninth with a single by junior left fielder Colby Roberts (Benton, Ark./Benton) and a hit batter. However, closer Blake Hauser recovered with a pair of strikeouts to clinch the tournament berth for the Rams.
Hauser worked two scoreless innings with four strikeouts to earn the win and improve to 5-2. Starter Kyle Haynes worked six innings and allowed five runs, three earned, on eight hits.
Freshman Chris Huffman (Fort Defiance, Va./Fort Defiance) suffered the loss for JMU to drop to 3-4. He allowed the two runs in the ninth and allowed three hits in 1 1/3 innings. Senior Evan Scott (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) worked five innings as the starter and allowed six runs on seven hits.
Mikionis finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs and the two home runs to give him five for the season. Second baseman Jordan Weymouth and catcher Nick Abrahamson were also 3-for-4 for the Rams. Weymouth and third baseman Joey Cujas each had two RBIs.
Junior second baseman Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glendale), sophomore third baseman Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby), junior catcher Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby), senior right fielder Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) and junior center fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) each had a pair of hits for the Dukes. Freshman shortstop Chad Carroll (Oakton, Va./Oakton) drove in three runs.
VCU got on the board in the first without the aid of a hit as a pair of walks, a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch resulted in runners on the corners. Right fielder Taylor Buran grounded into a fielder’s choice to plate the first run of the game.
JMU responded in the second as Scott walked and Carroll reached on an error. Shaban singled up the middle to drive in the first run of the game for the Dukes and leave runners on the corners. Haynes followed with an infield single to third base to give JMU a 2-1 lead.
Consecutive one-out doubles by Weymouth and Cujas tied the score for VCU in the third. The Rams broke the tie in the fourth as Mikionis lifted a high fly ball to left that just carried over the fence with the wind at its back.
JMU put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth. Haynes singled through the right side, stole second and scored on a ground ball up the middle by McInturff. He then came all the way around to score on a triple to right center by junior first baseman Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) to tie the score at 4-4.
The Dukes took the lead in the fifth without the aid of a hit. Scott walked and Roberts reached on an error to put runners on the corners. Carroll then sent a sharp liner to left for a sacrifice fly for a 5-4 lead.
VCU took advantage of free bases in the sixth to rally for four runs on just one hit. A walk, hit batter, and fielder’s choice bunt loaded the bases with no outs. A sacrifice fly by left fielder Paul Nice tied the score at 5-5. Another walk reloaded the bases before the only hit of the inning, a single to left center by Weymouth, scored a pair of runs for a 7-5 lead. Cujas added an RBI groundout to make it 8-5.
Goss led off the seventh with an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error on the play. McFarland’s single to left center plated Goss to make it 8-6. A wild pitch, a walk and a passed ball set up runners on the corners before Carroll doubled just inside the third base bag to drive in a pair of runners and tie the score at 8-8.
With its home slate complete, JMU will hit the road for its final four games, beginning with Tuesday’s game at Longwood.