Malbon’s diving catch preserves VMI baseball win, 5-4
David Geary and Collin Fleischer hit the first home runs of their careers, but a spectacular catch by Will Malbon with one out in the ninth was the key play of the game, as the VMI Keydets held off the East Tennessee State Buccaneers, 5-4, in the finale of a three-game SoCon series Sunday at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va.
The Keydets (10-19, 5-7 SoCon) took a 5-2 lead into the ninth, but ETSU (14-20, 3-6) rallied against Taylor Edens. Jeremy Taylor doubled with one out and Chris Cook followed with a RBI double, cutting the Keydet lead to 5-3. Trey York then doubled as well, and ETSU home run leader Kevin Phillips came up as the go-ahead run. Phillips looped a 2-2 pitch to shallow center field, but Malbon, who had entered the game as a pinch runner in the eighth, made a diving, tumbling catch to record the out. Edens then induced a groundout from Aaron Maher to end the game and give VMI the dramatic win.
Offensively, York led ETSU with three hits on a day that saw the Bucs post 10 hits, but leave the same number on board. Jordan Tarsovich went 2 for 3 with two doubles and Drew Bryan added two hits for the home team.
Jack Gomersall (1-0) picked up the win for the Keydets, adding to the day of firsts by earning his first collegiate victory. He retired the final batter of the fifth inning with the go-ahead run at third base. Edens threw the final three innings of the game and gave up two runs on four hits, three of which came in the ninth. He recorded his seventh save, third-most in the SoCon.
Griffin Krieg (1-4), the ETSU starter, allowed three runs in seven innings and took the loss.
For the second straight day, the Keydets jumped ahead in the first. A Tyler Tharp RBI single scored Jordan Tarsovich to put VMI up, 1-0.
The Keydets tacked on a run in the second, when Matt Winn launched his seventh home run of the year, a shot to right field that bounced off the roof of the batting cages for a 2-0 Keydet lead.
ETSU rallied in the fifth against Jonathan Kelley, when Taylor led off with a walk and Cook was hit by a pitch. A hard ground ball to third base resulted in a fielder’s choice with no outs recorded, loading the bases for Phillips. A wild pitch and a ground out scored two runs and, one out later, Gomersall relieved with a runner on third and two outs. After a walk, Gomersall struck out Danny Carrier on a 1-2 pitch to end the threat.
The Keydets got the lead back in the bottom of the inning, when Fleischer launched his first career home run, a shot to straightaway center field that made it 3-2.
That remained the score until the Keydets pushed across two crucial insurance runs in the eighth. Tarsovich led off with a sun-aided double and Tharp bunted him to third. Geary then followed with a blast over the batting cages in right field, his first home run in 259 career at-bats, for a 5-2 Keydet lead. That set the stage for the drama in the ninth inning.
VMI baseball will return to action Tuesday, when the Keydets play host to the VCU Rams at 6 p.m.