Freshman Matt Pita hit for the cycle and set a modern-day school record for runs batted in in a single game, leading the VMI Keydets over the Binghamton Bearcats, 15-9, in the opener of a doubleheader contested Saturday in Lexington, Va. The Keydets dropped the finale 15-10 as the teams split the twinbill.
The story of the day was Pita’s exploits, as he accomplished the cycle with an eighth-inning triple. In his previous at-bat in the sixth, he had doubled to left center to score three runs – giving him eight RBI for the day – and break the previous Keydet single-game RBI record of seven, held by multiple players and last accomplished by Robert Crumpler in 2005. His cycle was the first for a VMI player since Alex Haitsuka did it against Longwood in 2010.
The offensive onslaught made a winner of Matthew Eagle, who went to 3-0 despite giving up his first earned runs of the season. Eagle gave up six runs – five earned – over five-plus innings. Mike Bunal (0-2) was hit hard for six runs in just 1 2/3 frames and took the loss for the Bearcats.
The Keydets jumped ahead in the bottom of the first, fueled by the day’s star, Pita. Trailing 1-0, the first two Keydets reached against Bunal. Collin Fleischer and Peyton Maddox struck out, but Tyler Tharp walked to load the bases for Pita, who promptly deposited Bunal’s first pitch to him onto the hill beyond the left field fence for a grand slam. Pita’s third long ball of the year, and first career grand slam, made it 4-1 Keydets.
VMI added two more in the second on a Fleischer home run, and after BU rallied for a pair of its own in the fourth, the Keydets broke the game open in the bottom of the frame. RBI doubles by David Geary, Fleischer and Tharp plated runs before Pita drove in Tharp with a RBI single that made it 10-3, VMI.
With the score 10-6 in the sixth, Geary reached on a throwing error to start the VMI half of the frame. He then stole second and Fleischer single. A walk to Tharp loaded the bases for Pita, who drilled a shot deep into the gap in left center to drive in all three runs and break the VMI single-game RBI record. The Keydet lead was not seriously threatened the rest of the way, and Pita led off the eighth with his triple to complete the cycle.
Game two was a bit of a reversal, as Binghamton jumped on Brandon Barbery early and knocked him out of the game in the third inning. The Bearcats had an 8-1 lead in the third, but a three-run shot for Tharp helped fuel a four-run frame as the Keydets cut the margin to 8-5.
It was 11-6 when the Keydets came to bat in the seventh, and Will Malbon walked with one out. Nathan Eaton followed with a single and Geary drove home Malbon with a base hit. Fleischer then lofted a sacrifice fly to left field and Pita was hit by a pitch. With two on and two out, Tharp doubled to left to score Geary and a run came in on a fielding error to cut the lead to one, 11-10. Maddox came off the bench to pinch hit, but struck out on a 2-2 pitch with the tying and go ahead runs on base.
Another VMI rally was snuffed out in the eighth, when Eaton doubled with two out. Geary was hit by a pitch, but Fleischer struck out to end the threat. Binghamton then scored four times in the ninth inning to put the game away.
Barbery (0-2) took the loss in game two, as he gave up eight runs, seven earned, in 2 1/3 innings. The winning pitcher for BU was reliever Nicholas Liegi (1-0), who surrendered three runs in two innings, and Joe Orlando gave up just an unearned run in 2 2/3 frames of work to record his first save.
Tharp and Geary had three hits apiece to lead VMI in the nightcap, while leadoff hitter CJ Krowiak went 4 for 5 with five runs scored to pace the visitors.
All told in the doubleheader, there were 49 runs scored on 58 hits. 10 home runs were hit in the day’s action and the two games took a combined seven hours, 10 minutes.
VMI baseball will return to action Sunday, when the Keydets and Bearcats wrap up their series with a single game at 1 p.m.