Tharp’s three-homer game sends VMI Keydets past UNCG, 7-3

Tyler Tharp became just the third VMI player to hit three home runs in a single game and Josh Winder pitched into the ninth inning, leading the VMI Keydets past the UNCG Spartans, 7-3, in the opener of a SoCon series Fridayin Lexington, Va.

vmi baseballThe Keydets (19-26, 5-11 SoCon) led from the first inning on, when Tharp hit his first of three long balls, a two-run shot. UNCG (27-17, 10-6) got a run back off Winder in the second, but Tharp and Peyton Maddox went back to back in the third to give the Keydets a 5-1 lead.

The visitors got no closer the rest of the way, and Tharp’s third home run came in the fifth inning to help provide the winning margin. The Keydet right fielder had a chance for the first four home run game in VMI history, but popped out in the seventh inning.

Tharp’s three homer game was the third in school history and first in 21 years, as he joined Burt Saunders (1982) and Nate Shepperson (1996) as VMI players to accomplish the feat.

Winder (6-4), meanwhile, picked up the victory with 8 1/3 innings of work. He allowed three runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out 10. Bryce Hensley (6-5), who had not allowed a home run in over a year, allowed three and took the loss after being knocked out in the fourth inning. Ryan Bennett threw four pitches and induced a double play for his fifth save.

After the Keydets took the 5-1 lead after three innings, Winder put things on cruise control. UNCG did not have another runner reach scoring position until the ninth inning, and the Keydets added single runs in the fifth and sixth, with the sixth inning tally being a home run by Michael Diodato.

That put VMI up, 7-1, going to the ninth. UNCG knocked Winder out with one out and two runs in, thanks to a two-run homer by Tripp Shelton. Bennett entered with two on and one out and induced a 5-3 double play to third baseman Josh Hollifield to end the game and preserve the win.

In the contest, Winder hit the 100 strikeout plateau for the year and became the third Keydet in school history to do so. He surpassed Trey Barham’s 98 strikeouts in 2006 for the third-most in school history, and needs 11 whiffs the remainder of the season to pass Michael Bowman’s 110 K’s in 2007 for a new school record.

Offensively, in addition to Tharp, Maddox and Matt Dunlevy had multi-hit games. Dunlevy has now posted at least two hits in five straight games. Caleb Webster and Ben Spitznagel had two hits apiece for the visitors.

VMI and UNCG resume their series Saturday at 6 p.m. in Lexington.

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