Late VMI comeback falls short in 9-8 loss to Samford

vmiThe VMI Keydets rallied from a six-run deficit late in the game to bring the tying run to the plate multiple times in the last two innings, but the Samford Bulldogs held on for a dramatic 9-8 win in SoCon baseball action Sunday in Lexington, Va. The win gave Samford (18-10, 2-1 SoCon) a 2-1 series victory.

Samford had seemingly blown the game open, and had taken an 8-2 lead, on an eighth-inning three-run homer by Kevin Williams Jr., his second homer of the day. The Keydets (13-15, 2-4) batted around in the bottom of the inning, however, and scored four times to cut the margin to two.

The Bulldogs were able to get a unearned run off VMI closer Ryan Bennett in the ninth, and that proved costly for the home team when Peyton Maddox hit a two-run homer off Samford closer Wyatt Burns to make it a one-run contest, 9-8, with one out in the ninth. Burns was able to retire Collin Fleischer and Jake Huggins, both batting as the potential tying run, to preserve the Samford victory.

Offensively, Williams Jr. paced Samford with his two-homer, five-RBI day, while Troy Dixon also chipped in three hits. Jaye had a career day for the Keydets, going 4 for 5 with a home run and two runs scored. The four hits were a new career high.

The winning pitcher in relief was Jared Brasher (2-0), who allowed three runs – two earned – over three innings. He struck out six. Mason Adamson allowed three runs in two innings and took the loss to drop to 0-2, while Burns picked up his 12th save despite allowing Maddox’s two-run homer in the ninth.

Samford jumped out to a 2-0 lead after four and a half innings, but VMI tied the game in the fifth. Michael Diodato led off the inning with his first career home run, a drive to left center, to cut the margin to 2-1. Tyler Tharp then singled with two outs, advanced to third on a wild pickoff throw and scored the tying run on a wild pitch, knotting the score at 2-2.

The visitors took the lead for good in the sixth, when they manufactured a run off Adamson, and a two-run homer by Williams Jr. in the seventh made it a 5-2 game. The Bulldogs then added three more on Williams Jr.’s second long ball of the day, making it 8-2 going to the bottom of the eighth.

Jacob Jaye led off with a homer to right, his third long ball of the year, to make it 8-3. Tharp then singled and one out later, Collin Fleischer walked. Jake Huggins followed with a double to right, a ball that SU right fielder Jordan Fucci lost in the sun, to cut the margin to 8-4. Matt Dunlevy singled home two runs and Ryan Hatten greeted Burns with his first career hit, a single up the middle, but Burns struck out Diodato and Jordan Ebersole to end the threat.

The critical ninth-inning unearned run came when Troy Dixon led off with a single to right. Tharp was unable to come up with the ball cleanly and Dixon, running aggressively, advanced to second on the bobble. He then scored on a double play later in the inning, making Maddox’s two-run homer in the bottom half not enough to complete the rally.

On the mound, neither starter figured in the decision, as the game was tied when VMI’s Brandon Barbery was removed after five innings of two-run baseball. Stephen Jones was pulled after four-plus, immediately after surrendering the homer to Diodato.

VMI baseball will return to action Tuesday, when the Keydets play host to Longwood at 6 p.m.

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