The East Tennessee State Buccaneers hit four home runs and held off a VMI ninth-inning rally en route to an 8-4 win in SoCon baseball action Friday evening in Lexington, Va.
ETSU (13-19, 2-5 SoCon) jumped out to an 8-1 lead at the stretch half of the seventh, but VMI (9-18, 4-6) battled back. A run in the seventh on a mammoth home run by Matt Winn and two more in the eighth pulled the Keydets to within 8-4, and VMI then loaded the bases with two out. David Geary then hit a long drive to straightaway center field that was run down by center fielder Jeremy Taylor, as he bumped into the wall to end the game.
The story of the game was ETSU’s power, as the squad that came in hitting just under .300 blasted four home runs, two by team leader Kevin Phillips and one each by Chris Cook and Hagen Owenby. The Keydets did, however, hold conference batting leader Trey York to an 0 for 3 night.
The starters got the decisions, as Lee Haeberle (3-5) went 5 2/3 innings and gave up just one run for ETSU. He struck out five and did not issue a walk. Austin Heenan (0-4) was hit for six runs, five earned, in 5 1/3 innings.
After the game was delayed 15 minutes by a brief rain shower, ETSU scored in the second on Phillips’ first home run of the game. The Bucs added another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Aaron Maher to make it a 2-0 contest, and a four-spot in the sixth included a two-run shot by Phillips, a RBI triple by Maher and a run-scoring error. The big inning made it 6-0, ETSU.
The Keydets got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, when Jordan Tarsovich led off with a double and moved to third on a infield out. Geary followed with a RBI double, cutting the ETSU lead to 6-1.
Home runs by Cook and Owenby in the seventh made it an 8-1 game, ETSU’s largest lead of the night, but Winn launched his sixth home run of the season in the bottom of that inning to cut the margin to 8-2.
Geary then started an eighth-inning rally with an infield hit and Will Connerley followed with his third hit of the game. The single to left eluded outfielder Daniel Tucker and bounced away, allowing Geary to score to pull the Keydets within 8-3. After a balk, Brandon Angus hit a ground ball to third baseman Cook that was booted for an error, allowing Connerley to score. That set the stage for the ninth-inning drama, but did account for the final run of the night.
Offensively, Phillips, Cook and Zach Thompson had two hits each for ETSU, while Connerley had three for the Keydets.
VMI baseball returns to action Saturday, when the series with ETSU resumes at 4 p.m. at Gray-Minor Stadium.