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VMI Baseball: Keydets host Samford in SoCon series on ESPN3

chris graham wade branner vmiChris Graham joins “Voice of the Keydets” Wade Branner on ESPN3 this weekend as the VMI baseball team hosts its first Southern Conference series of the 2019 season, hosting Samford.

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The Keydets face a tough test against the 2018 Southern Conference Champion Bulldogs. Samford is one of two teams (ETSU) tied atop the league standings with a 3-0 record, and is 17-7 overall.

Both teams have players that rank highly in individual categories. Samford’s Brooks Carlson is third in batting average (.372) and sixth in on-base percentage (.456), while Sonny DiChaira is tied for second with seven home runs. VMI’s Ryan Smoot tops the hit by pitch category with 14, five ahead of second place.

In the pitching leaders, Keydet junior Jacob Menders is third in ERA (2.17), and second in opposing batting average (.183). Zak Kent leads the conference with 55 strikeouts, and Adam Jewell is 10th in opposing batting average. All three rank in the top 10 for innings pitched on the season. Zach Hester for Samford is 10th with a 2.59 ERA and tied for third with 34 strikeouts. Samuel Strickland has four victories on the season and Hester has three. Stephen Jones leads the SoCon with eight saves, double the number of the second-place pitcher.

VMI defeated Samford in the last regular-season game of the 2018 campaign 8-2. Four relievers, including current Keydets Corey Johnston and Michael Geary, combined for 4 2/3 innings of hitless relief.