Morley homer helps VMI stun Campbell
Jacob Morley hit a walk-off home run, his 10th long ball of the season, sending the VMI Keydets to a 8-7 win over the Campbell Camels in Big South baseball action Saturday afternoon at Gray-Minor Stadium. With the victory, VMI wins the series from Campbell, two games to one.
The Camels (32-10, 9-6 Big South) took a 7-6 lead into the eighth, but Matt Winn tied the game with a sacrifice fly. Moments later, the skies opened up and rain began to fall, the start of a one hour, six minute rain delay. After the resumption, George Piccirilli popped out to second base with two runners on, sending the game to the ninth tied, 7-7. John Garrett retired Campbell in order, throwing just four pitches to do so, and Morley hit a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall to start the VMI (13-26, 6-12) ninth and end the ball game.
The home run was the Keydets’ first walk-off hit of any sort since March 13, 2010, and gave Morley 10 home runs on the year, the most by a VMI player since that 2010 campaign. It was his third long ball of the series, after the senior had also gone deep in each of the games during Friday’s doubleheader, including the eventual game-winning home run in Saturday’s nightcap.
John Garrett picked up his second straight win in relief, moving to 2-2 after retiring the side on just four pitches in the ninth. David Olson, who surrendered Morley’s home run, dropped to 0-1.
“This weekend was a real gut check for our team, playing three games in 24 hours,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “I was very proud of our guys competing and scratching across the tying run in the eighth. Because of injuries, we had to play some guys who haven’t played recently, and I thought they stepped up, had quality at-bats and played hard all day. Thomas Stallings did a great job rebounding from a first inning error, and wound up scoring the eighth-inning run to tie the game. When we got up five early, I thought Campbell Henkel did a nice job, we just couldn’t make the plays behind him to keep him in the game. They got his pitch count up and he started running out of gas. Our bullpen did a great job again, and I can’t speak highly enough of Mike Devine and John Garrett and the job they’ve done this weekend at the back end of ball games. We knew this weekend would be tough. Campbell has a great team, and it was good to see our seniors step up. Jacob Morley had two great at-bats to give us these two victories.”
For the first time in the series, Campbell jumped on the scoreboard first. Jimmy Brenneman opened the game by reached on a Stalling error, and was bunted to second base. One out later, Jake Kirkland singled him home to give the Camels a 1-0 advantage.
The Keydets tied the contest in the bottom half, when Rob Dickinson stroked a leadoff double to right center. Piccirilli had a bunt single, and one out later, Gary LeClair hit a slow roller to the first baseman. The ball was fielded and CU first baseman Nick Ray threw home, but Dickinson beat the play at the plate to tie the score, 1-1, on the fielder’s choice.
VMI then exploded in the third. Winn led off the inning with a single, and one out later, Piccirilli and Morley drew back to back walks, two of seven free passes issued by CU hurlers. Camel starter Andrew Jacobsen then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing a run to score, and after an infield out and a walk re-loaded the bases, Stallings drilled a two-run single through the left side, putting VMI up 4-1. That knocked Jacobsen out of the game, and Drew Bryan had a two-run single off the reliever, Logan Self, to make it a five-run inning and a 6-1 contest.
The visitors fired back with five runs of their own in the fifth. Ray and Ben Fish opened the inning with singles, and two batters later, Ben McQuown singled to drive in a run. Two additional runs scored after an error, and Kirkland greeted reliever Reed Garrett with an RBI double, accounting for the fifth run and tying the score, 6-6.
Campbell then went ahead in the sixth. Fish led off the inning with a double, and after a infield out, Brenneman singled to left to put CU up, 7-6.
Neither team could score in the seventh, and Devine retired CU in order in the eighth. Stallings then led off the Keydet eighth with a walk, bringing Camel closer Ryan Mattes out of the bullpen. Andrew Montague laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Drew Bryan had a infield hit to put runners at the corners. Winn then lofted a 1-0 pitch to center field for the tying sacrifice fly, setting the stage for the weather delay and Morley’s dramatic home run.
Neither starter figured in the decision, as Jacobsen lasted 2 2/3 innings for CU, allowing six runs, all of which were earned, while VMI’s Henkel posted 4 1/3 frames, surrendering six runs, three of which were earned.
Offensively, seven different players had hits for VMI, with Bryan being the lone VMI player with a pair of hits. Stallings and Morley scored two runs apiece, while Stallings also had two RBI.
Fish and Jake Kirkland were both 2 for 4 for the Camels.
VMI baseball will return to action Tuesday, as the Keydets travel to Farmville, Va. to take on the Longwood Lancers. Game time is set for 6 p.m.