The VMI Keydets won their 2014 season finale in one of the most unique ways possible, defeating the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 4-3 Saturday afternoon, after the winning run scored on a throwing error following a dropped third strike with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The game, which was the nightcap of a Saturday doubleheader, marked VMI’s final athletic contest in the Big South Conference prior to July’s return to the Southern Conference.
With the game tied, 3-3, the first two Keydets (25-23, 11-16 Big South) were retired easily by CSU closer Austin Weekley to start the ninth inning. David Geary, however, reached on an error by second baseman Kevin Hickey. Jordan Tarsovich then followed with an infield hit, bringing up Brandon Angus, who struck out on a 1-2 pitch in the dirt. CSU (30-24, 12-14 Big South) catcher Andrew Widell threw to first in an effort to complete the strikeout, but threw well over his first baseman’s head for an error, allowing Geary to score easily and the Keydets to win in walk-off fashion for the third time this season.
The two ninth-inning errors caused Weekley (2-6) to take a hard-luck loss, despite posting two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings, while Berkley Hawkins (2-0) picked up the win after throwing just one pitch in the top half of the inning. Hawkins picked up two saves and a win in his final week of collegiate baseball.
Offensively, the Keydets were led by Tarsovich, who went 3 for 5 and finished the doubleheader 5 for 9. He also stole his 20th base of the year, while teammate Angus stole his 29th to tie Gary Sibayan ’89 for the third-most thefts in VMI single season history.
CSU saw Widell and Zack Hagaman post two hits apiece.
Andrew Woods and a pair of CSU pitchers matched zeros until the fourth inning, when the Keydets broke through. Cameron Walter had a startling bunt single with one out and Will Malbon followed with a double. Tanner Dofflemyer then scored Walter with a sacrifice fly and Geary singled home Malbon, giving VMI a 2-0 lead.
The Buccaneers tied in the sixth inning, however, when Widell led off with a single and was bunted to second. Robbie Streett reached on an error to put runners at the corners, and one out later, Hagaman tripled home both runners to tie the game, 2-2.
CSU took its first lead in the seventh, when Brian Welch scored on Woods’ wild pitch to make it a 3-2 contest and end Woods’ night. The VMI hurler allowed just one earned run over seven innings, striking out seven. He did not issue a walk.
The home team tied the score in the bottom of the seventh, when Geary walked with one out. Tarsovich followed with a double and Angus plated a run with a sacrifice fly, knotting the score at 3.
The Bucs threatened in the ninth when Hickey led off with a single and Welch sacrificed him to second base. One out later, Hawkins relieved Miles McQuaig and threw one pitch, a pitch that saw Matt Winn pick Hickey off to end the threat and set the stage for the walk-off win.
In season-ending statistics of note, VMI finished with the ninth-most steals in program history (72), sparked by Angus’ Big South-leading 29. The pitching staff finished with the seventh-most strikeouts in VMI annals (361) despite being 21 1/3 innings shy of the program’s top-10 in that statistic. Perhaps most impressive of all, however, was the team’s earned run average. The stellar 3.53 figure set a new program record for the aluminum bat era and ranked as the ninth-lowest overall in program history.