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VMI baseball falls in extras

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The VMI Keydets tied the game with a two-out, two-run single in the 9th and led by two runs in the 10th, but the UNC Asheville Bulldogs scored three times in the bottom half of that inning and defeated VMI, 5-4, in Big South baseball action Saturday afternoon at Greenwood Field. The game was the continuation of the conference opener for both schools, which had begun Friday but been suspended on account of darkness.

Asheville (9-9, 1-0 Big South) took a 2-0 lead to the 9th, helped by Ryan Dull’s brilliant seven innings on Friday. Gary LeClair delivered a two-out, two-run single off Asheville closer Ethan Steible, tying the contest at two, and the Keydets (6-11, 0-1) took the lead in the bottom half. Thomas Stallings’ two-out single scored Jacob Morley, and Stallings then scored on a wild pitch to put the Keydets up two headed to the Asheville half of the 10th.

VMI called upon Michael Devine (0-1) to start the 10th, and the first two hitters reached. Jordan Lurie then put down a sacrifice bunt that Devine, coming off the mound, bobbled briefly, but recovered in time to get an out at first. An infield hit by Grant Gajdosz made it 4-3, and brought on Reed Garrett out of the Keydet bullpen. Garrett intentionally walked Billy Creighton, loading the bases and setting up a possible game-ending double play, but Todd Joyner lined the ball into right-center, just beyond the reach of the Keydet outfielders for a two-run single, ending the ballgame.

Elliot Criss (1-1), who recorded one out in the 10th, picked up the win for Asheville, while Devine was charged with the loss for VMI, after allowing three runs in his 1/3 of an inning.

After a two-hour start delay on Friday, the game got underway with two of the Big South’s best on the mound, Coby Cowgill for VMI and Ryan Dull for the Bulldogs. The two matched zeros through the first four innings, but Asheville struck first in the fifth, when Joyner drove a pitch over the right field wall for his first home run of the year, putting the home team up 1-0.

That lead grew to 2-0 in the sixth, as with a runner on first, Jordan Lurie dropped down a bunt. Cowgill came off the mound, but misfired on the throw to first for an error, and the runner was able to come around to score to make it 2-0, Asheville.

Dull, meanwhile, was in a groove through five innings, retiring eight straight hitters at one point. In the fifth, however, the Keydets left two baserunners on, and they did the same in the sixth. When George Piccirilli singled to open the eighth, Dull was pulled and Adam Spracklin came on in relief, just as the game was suspended into Saturday.

When the contest resumed some 15 hours later, Spracklin picked Piccirilli off first on a disputed call, and the Keydets were unable to mount a further rally in the eighth. John Garrett wriggled off the hook in the Asheville eighth, striking out Aaron Wright with the bases loaded, and that brought the Keydets up in the ninth.

Michael Donovan led off the ninth with a single, and Chase Worthington followed with a ground ball to second, a ball that appeared to be a tailor-made double play. Asheville second baseman Eli Miller, however, booted the ball, allowing both runners to reach. A sacrifice bunt moved them both up, and after a hit batter loaded the bases, Andrew Montague struck out for the second out of the inning. LeClair then bounced a single up the middle, just beyond the infielders’ reach, bringing home two runners and tying the game, 2-2.

The Bulldogs left two on in the ninth, and Morley drilled a one-out double in the Keydet 10th. After a groundout, Stallings hammered a line drive single to center, giving the Keydets their first lead of the contest, 3-2. He would advance to third after a poor throw on a pickoff attempt, and score on a wild pitch, giving VMI a 4-2 edge. Unfortunately for the Keydets, that set the stage for Asheville’s 10th-inning rally.

Neither starter figured in the decision, as Cowgill scattered 11 hits over six innings, allowing two runs (one earned), while Dull went seven scoreless frames, surrendering seven hits.

Five Keydet players had two hits apiece, while Joyner was 4 for 6 for Asheville, as the two squads combined for 31 hits in the three hour, two minute game.

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