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Menders, Lopez combine for gem as VMI splits Thursday twin-bill with NJIT

VMI AthleticsRedshirt senior Jacob Menders and redshirt sophomore Will Lopez combined to pitch a gem Thursday evening as the VMI baseball team split a non-conference doubleheader with the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

It was the Keydets 2021 season home opener in Gray-Minor Stadium as the teams split two seven-inning games, with the Highlanders taking game one 16-5 and VMI winning the nightcap 2-1.

Menders got the start in the second game for the Keydets and worked five innings, scattering four hits, three walks and one unearned run while striking out six. NJIT scored its run in the third but VMI evened the score in the fifth as Nathan Loyd hit an RBI groundout to bring home Reeves Whitmore.

Whitmore walked to lead off the seventh and Justin Nase entered the game as a pinch runner. Nase stole second and Cole Jenkins followed with a walk. Loyd laid down a sacrifice bunt and Nase beat the throw to third base to load the bases with no outs. Following an out, Will Knight was hit by a pitch to force home Nase and end the game.

Lopez came on in the sixth and gave up a hit and a walk with two strikeouts to earn the win. Jenkins recorded a hit and walk in the contest. Ryan Fischer started for the Highlanders and was effective in his five frames, allowing two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.

NJIT started strong in the opener, plating five runs in the first two innings. Jenkins drilled a three-run home run to left center in the bottom of the second to cut the lead to 5-3. After two NJIT runs each in the third and fourth, Whitmore doubled to score one in the fourth and Justin Starke walked with the bases loaded later in the frame to make the lead 9-5. A six-run Highlander sixth inning put the game out of reach.

Jenkins finished 2-3 with a walk and two runs, while Starke was 2-02 with two walks. Albert Choi went 3-4 with a double, a triple, four RBI and three runs for NJIT.

VMI (1-2) is scheduled to host NJIT (1-1) Friday at 3 p.m.

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