VCU tops VMI in 11

vmi_logoThe teams combined to leave 27 runners on base in a game that lasted three hours, 58 minutes, but in the end, a long single by VCU Ram Jordan Weymouth scored Joey Cujas to give VCU a 5-4 win over the VMI Keydets in non-conference baseball action Wednesday at The Diamond in Richmond, Va. The contest was the series finale between the clubs, as the squads split the season series at two games apiece.

After a VCU (17-18) threat had gone by the board in the 10th and a Keydet (18-22) rally had done likewise in the 11th, Joey Cujas led off the Ram 11th with his fifth single of the game, this one coming against Reed Garrett. Chris Ayers struck out trying to bunt, and Vimael Machin fanned as well. On the third strike to Machin, however, Cujas was able to move up when the ball was in the dirt, going to second on a wild pitch. The next batter, Cody Acker, was hit by a pitch. That brought up Weymouth, who drove a 1-0 pitch deep into the right-center field alley for a game-winning single.

The Keydets left 14 runners on base in the setback, including three over their final two at-bats, while VCU saw 13 runners stranded. Jordan Storey, making his first collegiate appearance, picked up the win (1-0) by inducing a double play off the bat of Drew Bryan in the VMI 11th. Reed Garrett took the loss, allowing the game-winning run on two hits despite striking out two.

VMI jumped ahead in the opening inning, when Jordan Tarsovich walked against VCU starter Dan Black, the first of nine walks the Keydets would draw. One out later, Matt Winn singled him to third to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, and Red Dowdell drove Tarsovich home with a sacrifice fly, putting the visitors up, 1-0.

VCU tied the game in the bottom half on a Cujas RBI single, and would promptly take the lead in the second. Taylor Buran led off with a double against T.J. Lighton, but was erased on a fielder’s choice. One out later, with Weymouth at second, catcher Walker Haymaker bounced a single into left field to give the Rams the lead, 2-1. VCU would add a run in the third to push that margin to two, 3-1.

The Keydets fired back in the fifth against reliever Hunter Absher. Rob Dickinson led off with a single. Winn struck out and Dowdell flied out, but Dickinson stole second, stole third and scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead 3-2, VCU. With two outs, Will Connerley then walked, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Brandon Angus’ single, tying the game, 3-3.

VMI then had a golden chance in the sixth, when Bryan and Thomas Stallings both walked on four pitches to open the inning. VCU right-hander Michael Carpenter then hit Tarsovich with the first pitch to the Keydet leadoff hitter, loading the bases for Dickinson, who bounced into a fielder’s choice at home, swinging at the first pitch. Winn then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

The visitors finally retook the lead in the eighth. Stallings had a one-out single and Tarsovich followed with one of his own. Dickinson then hit a sinking line drive into shallow center that VCU center fielder Bill Cullen made a headlong, diving effort to catch, but the ball bounced off his glove for a RBI single, scoring Stallings to give VMI a 4-3 lead.

That remained the score headed into the ninth, and after Campbell Henkel retired Cullen, John Garrett relieved and gave up a leadoff single to James Bunn. Cujas followed with a hit as well, but Ayers struck out for the second out of the inning. Garrett then fell behind Machin 3-0, threw a strike and saw his 3-1 pitch laced down the right field line for a double, scoring Bunn to tie the game, 4-4. With the winning run at third, however, Garrett retired Cody Acker to send the game to extra innings.

After VMI mustered just a walk in its 10th, there was controversy in the VCU half of the frame. Weymouth reached on a infield hit, and after a sacrifice bunt, Haymaker struck out. Cullen was intentionally walked to put two on with two out, and Bunn fell behind 0-1. The next pitch hit Bunn in the left shoulder, but the home plate umpire ruled that Bunn had made no effort to move out of the path of the pitch. Bunn was brought back to finish his at-bat and grounded out, ending the inning.

The Keydets rallied in the 11th. With one out, Cameron Walter singled and Angus was hit by a pitch. Nick Dwyer followed with a single, loading the bases, but on a 1-1 pitch, Bryan grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and set the stage for the game-winning VCU rally.

Offensively, Cujas led all hitters by going 5 for 6. The Keydets saw Dickinson and Angus post two hits apiece to lead their 11-hit effort. Both starters were out of the game early, including VMI’s Lighton, who was pulled in a predetermined fashion after just 1 2/3 innings.

VMI baseball will return to action Friday, facing Big South-leading Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C. Game time is set for 5 p.m.


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