Longwood scores in ninth to top VMI, 4-3

vmi_logoThe VMI Keydets rallied to tie the game in the ninth, but a ninth-inning error allowed the Longwood Lancers to score the winning run, and escape with a dramatic 4-3 win in the opener of a Big South baseball doubleheader Saturday at Bolding Stadium in Farmville, Va. The loss snapped VMI’s (10-15, 2-3 Big South) four-game winning streak.

After a two-run single by Sheldon Shifflett in the ninth erased a 3-1 deficit, Kyrie Washington led off the Longwood (11-11, 3-2 BSC) ninth with a double to left-center off Reed Garrett (1-2). The next batter, Travis Burnette, bunted the ball down the third base line, attempting the sacrifice. Third baseman Ray Lopez fielded and threw to first, but his low throw skipped away from second baseman Drew Bryan covering, allowing Washington to come in to score and the Lancers to even the series at one game apiece.

Garrett was tagged with the loss for the Keydets, after giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits over 1 2/3 innings. Aaron Myers (2-0) blew the save in the top of the ninth, but wound up with his second victory by pitching 3 1/3 innings and giving up two runs.

Neither starter figured in the decision in what was a pitcher’s duel most of the way, as Campbell Henkel went six innings and did not give up an earned run. The junior fanned a career-high seven against only one walk, but a fifth-inning home run by Colton Konvicka followed an error for two unearned tallies. Brandon Vick matched him most of the way, going 5 2/3 and allowing only one unearned run.

The Keydets threatened in the first, as they put two on with one out, but Matt Winn lofted a shallow fly to center field. Both runners had to hold to see if the ball would be caught, and when it fell in shallow center, Will Connerley was thrown out at second for the fielder’s choice. The next batter, Brandon Angus, grounded out to end the threat.

Longwood put two on the bottom half of the inning, but Henkel fanned Scott Burkett, and Vick did likewise to Thomas Stallings and Rob Dickinson to end a Keydet threat in the second. For the third straight inning in the third, the Keydets put two on, but Shifflett grounded out to end that inning and keep the game scoreless.

The Lancers then drew first blood in the fifth. Henkel retired the first two hitters, but third baseman Ray Lopez threw wildly to first on a ground ball, allowing Brandon Delk to reach. The next batter, Konvicka, drove a 2-1 pitch over the left field wall for his first career home run and a 2-0 Longwood lead.

The Keydets got one back in the sixth, when Shifflett singled with one out. Lopez reached on an error, and one out later, Red Dowdell greeted Myers with a single to left, cutting the Longwood lead to 2-1. The next batter, Dickinson, walked on four pitches to load the bases, but Myers struck out Jordan Tarsovich to escape the threat with the lead.

The home team added on in the eighth, after Roth doubled with one out. Matt Dickason followed with a single, and Alex Owens drove in a run with a single to left, making it 3-1. A wild pitch then put runners at second and third, but the Keydets brought the infield in with only one out.

That move paid dividends when Burkett grounded the ball to the right of shortstop Cody Holder, playing the position for the first time this season. Holder made a diving stop, got up and threw a strike to catcher Matt Winn to retire the runner at home. Garrett induced a groundout from the next hitter, Justin Lacy, to end the inning, and the Keydets rallied in the ninth.

Winn had a one-out single to start the uprising, and Michael Donovan pinch-ran at first base. Angus then drilled a double down the left field line, putting two runners in scoring position, and Shifflett followed with a single that just glanced off the glove of the diving Roth, scoring both runners to tie the game, 3-3. He was then caught stealing, and Lopez struck out to end the inning and set the stage for the game-deciding rally in the ninth.

Offensively, four players had two hits for the Keydets, including Shifflett, while Burnette and Owens had two hits apiece for the home team. Tarsovich went 0 for 5 and saw his hitting streak end at a career-high 14 games.

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