Virginia Tech rallies to knock off JMU

Virginia Tech took advantage of a pair of James Madison miscues as second baseman Alex Perez capitalized with a two-run double in the eighth to lift VT to a 6-4 win in a non-conference baseball game on Tuesday night at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.

VT improved to 18-9 overall and 16-2 in non-conference play.  JMU dropped to 6-18-1 on the season.

After trailing 4-0 at the halfway point, JMU rallied with three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to tie the score.

The 4-4 tie held until the eighth when Virginia Tech mounted its rally.  With one out, right fielder Kyle Wernicki reached when freshman shortstop Chad Carroll’s (Oakton, Va./Oakton) throw sailed high.  The next batter, designated hitter Tyler Horan, also reached when a fly ball was dropped in left by junior Colby Roberts (Benton, Ark./Benton).  After Roberts retired a runner at the plate on the next play to preserve the tie, Perez came through with a double to the wall in left center to break the tie and put the Hokies up 6-4.

Eddie Campbell (3-0) earned the win in relief after working a scoreless seventh as the fourth of six pitchers for the Hokies.  Jake Joyce worked around a pair of JMU singles in the ninth to post his second save.

Junior Nick Slogik (Strongsville, Ohio/St. Edward) took the loss (0-2) with the two unearned runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings of work.

Junior catcher Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) broke a string of 10 games with no JMU home runs with a two-run shot in the fifth for his second of the season.    He was also hit by a pitch for the 25th time in his career to move into a tie for eighth in program history.

Four of the top five batters in the order combined for nine of JMU’s 11 hits.  Junior center fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) made it back-to-back three-hit games to go with an RBI and a steal.  Junior second baseman Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glendale) posted his fifth straight multiple-hit game by going 2-for-3 with a walk and a steal.  Roberts and sophomore third baseman Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) also had two hits each with a steal as JMU followed its school record of 11 steals on Sunday with seven more Tuesday.

In addition to Perez, first baseman Gabe Ortiz and shortstop Johnny Morales also had two RBIs for the Hokies.  Morales, catcher Mark Zagunis and left fielder Carson Helms each had two hits.

Tech scored the game’s first run quickly in the first two batters as Zagunis led off with a triple to left center and Ortiz grounded out to short to score him.

With the Hokies grabbing the early lead, JMU missed several opportunities to answer by stranding nine of the game’s 11 runners left on base over the first four innings.  Overall, the Dukes have left 49 runners on the bases over their last four games while batting .231 (15-for-65) with runners in scoring position.

JMU stranded two in the second, then let another opportunity slip away in the third.  After two outs, a walk, infield single, double steal and another walk loaded the bases.  However, a slow grounder by Goss ended the inning with no damage as Tech still led 1-0.

The Dukes again in the fourth loaded the bases after the inning opened with two outs.  A single, steal, walk, steal and a hit batter filled the bags before a called third strike put an end to the threat.

After JMU’s missed opportunities, the Hokies put a pair of runners on via free bases on a hit batter and a walk in the fifth.  After a hard lineout to left, Ortiz delivered a single through the left side to score designated hitter Tyler Horan just ahead of the relay throw from left.  VT loaded the bases on a hit batter and Morales’ slow tapper to third scored two runs with heads up base running to make it 4-0.

After all the missed opportunities, JMU finally cashed in during the fifth inning.  Brown and Goss hit consecutive one-out singles.  After a double steal, Brown scored on a wild pitch for the first JMU run of the game.  With two outs, Shaban hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot down the right-field line to make it 4-3.

JMU tied the game in the sixth as Roberts doubled to the corner in right.  After advancing on a wild pitch, he came in to score as McInturff beat out a high chopper for an infield single.

The Dukes will be home this weekend to continue a stretch of seven out of eight games at home.  JMU hosts a three-game Colonial Athletic Association series against Delaware with 6:30 p.m. games Friday and Saturday followed by a 2 p.m. game on Sunday.  All three contests are tentatively slated for free live audio on MadiZONE.

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