Berkley Hawkins retired the final two hitters of the eighth inning with the tying run at third base, preserving a one-run VMI lead and helping the Keydets defeat the Old Dominion Monarchs, 4-3, in non-conference baseball action Tuesday night in Lexington, Va. The victory came in VMI’s final non-conference game of the season.
VMI (23-22) took a 4-2 lead to the eighth and Jonathan Kelley came on in relief. With one out, Ben Slaton singled and Josh Eldridge walked. Miles McQuaig then allowed a pinch-hit single to Kurt Sinnen, scoring Slaton to cut the lead to 4-3 and bringing Hawkins out of the bullpen with runners at the corners. VMI’s closer fell behind Mike Perez 2-1, but induced a pop-up to second baseman Jordan Tarsovich for out number two. Tyler Urps then grounded out to Tarsovich, who made a sliding stop on the play, to retire the side.
ODU managed only a scratch single in the ninth as the Keydets emerged victorious.
Despite the game being a battle of bullpens, ODU starter Ryan Yarbrough (5-6) took the loss, allowing three runs on four hits over 4 2/3 innings. Taylor Edens, who relieved starter Campbell Henkel in the fourth inning, went to 3-0 with 3 2/3 innings of work that saw him allow one run. Hawkins was credited with his third save.
The Monarchs jumped ahead in the third inning, when second baseman Nick Walker homered off the left side of the scoreboard to put the visitors up, 1-0. ODU then added on in the fifth against Edens, when Urps led off with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch. One out later, Taylor Ostrich doubled to left center, plating Urps for a 2-0 ODU lead.
The Keydets rallied in the bottom of the fifth, however. With two outs and Will Connerley at second, Jordan Tarsovich singled home a run to cut the VMI deficit to 2-1. Eric Mayers then tripled to right center, a ball that was up the alley and dropped when ODU outfielders Connor Myers and Eldridge collided. Tarsovich scored easily to tie the game, 2-2. Brandon Angus blooped a double down the right field line, scoring Mayers, and Cameron Walter singled home Angus to make it 4-2, Keydets.
Both teams had chances to add on in the seventh. The visitors had two on with two out, but Rian Ellis induced P.J. Higgins to fly out to left to end the threat. VMI, meanwhile, put runners at first and second with one out in the bottom of the frame, but Walter and Matt Winn struck out in succession to end the rally and set up the eighth-inning drama.
“I was proud of the way our offense battled to score four runs in the fifth,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “More importantly, I was proud of our bullpen and how we made pitches when we needed to. In all my years of coaching, this group is the most fun team to coach because they play hard and compete every day.”
Offensively, the Keydets saw Connerley, Tarsovich and Mayers post two hits apiece, while ODU was paced by a 2 for 5 night from Walker. With the win, Coach Ikenberry picked up his first career victory over ODU (31-21) coach and VMI Hall of Famer Chris Finwood ’88.
VMI baseball will return to action Thursday, as the Keydets try to battle their way into the Big South Tournament against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. Opening pitch of the three-game series is scheduled for 7 p.m.