VMI baseball routs Western Carolina in series opener, 18-4
The VMI Keydets scored their most runs in over five years and stole six bases in a game for the third time in less than a week as they routed the Western Carolina Catamounts, 18-4, in the opener of a SoCon baseball series Thursday night in Cullowhee, N.C. With the win, the Keydets clinched a spot in the main draw of the conference tournament and ensured that their first game will be May 20 in Charleston, S.C.
On this night, the Keydets (19-27, 11-11) led 7-3 going to the sixth and proceeded to break the game open. Brandon Angus led off with a walk and stole second. Ray Lopez then walked and Jordan Tarsovich had a bunt single to load the bases. A fielding error brought home two runs and a RBI single by Collin Fleischer plated another, but VMI was far from done.
Tyler Tharp added a two-run single and Thomas Stallings drove in a run with an infield hit to make it 13-3. A RBI double for Angus scored Tharp, and Lopez plated two more with a single to cap the nine-run inning and make it a 16-3 game. The teams traded runs in the seventh and a Stallings solo home run in the eighth capped the scoring.
The 18 runs were the most scored by a VMI team since notching 20 on March 6, 2010 against Maryland-Eastern Shore, and the six stolen bases moved this year’s Keydet squad into second in school history on the all-time steals listing. The 2015 squad’s 96 thefts is just two shy of 1995’s 98 steals.
Andrew Woods (7-1) preserved the large lead by going seven solid innings and allowing four runs on nine hits. He struck out four and walked two, and his seventh win moved him into a four-way tie for fourth on the all-time VMI single season list. The victory also tied him with former Keydet Michael Bowman for sixth in career victories with 14.
WCU (20-27, 10-12) starter Bryan Sammons was charged with seven of the 18 runs and dropped to 4-5 with the loss.
The Keydets took the early 1-0 lead when Lopez was hit by a 3-2 pitch to open the game. One out later, Geary was plunked as well, and as Matt Winn struck out, both runners broke for their next base. The double steal resulted in a throwing error by catcher Spencer Holcomb, allowing Lopez to score the game’s first run.
That 1-0 margin grew in the fourth, when Winn started the inning with a single. One out later, Will Connerley singled him home for a 2-0 lead and Stallings plated Connerley with a single two batters later, giving the Keydets a 3-0 lead.
Western Carolina tied the game in the fourth. Bermudez led off with a double and Bradley Strong followed with a two-run home run to right field. A two-out, RBI single by Matthew Koehler followed and tied the game, 3-3.
The tie did not last long, however, as Tarsovich drew a walk in an 11-pitch at-bat with one out in the fifth. Geary and Winn then followed with walks of their own and Fleischer gave the Keydets the lead once again with a RBI single. Connerley then forced in a run with a hit by pitch and Tharp followed with a possible double play ground ball to sharp. Fleischer, going from second to third, slowed just enough to obscure the vision of shortstop Brett Pope. Pope was not able to turn the double play and a run scored. Fleischer then capped the inning by scoring on a passed ball, and gave VMI a 7-3 lead headed into its nine-run explosion.
Connerley added a RBI single in the seventh, which Bermudez countered for the home team with a RBI double in the bottom half. Stallings then capped the scoring with his 10th home run of the year, a solo shot to right-center, to lead off the eighth and account for the final margin of 18-4.
The offensive onslaught included three hits by Stallings and two apiece for Tarsovich, Winn, Fleischer, Connerley and Angus. Winn scored four runs, while Connerley, Tharp and Stallings chipped in with three RBI apiece. With Stallings’ home run, the Keydets have gone deep in seven straight games, equaling their longest streak of the season.
Bermudez led WCU with a 3 for 4 night.
By clinching a spot in the main draw of the conference tournament, it will be the first time since 2010 that the Keydets will qualify for a postseason tournament without participating in a play-in game.
VMI baseball returns to action and wraps up the regular season Friday with a doubleheader at Western Carolina. Game one gets underway at 2 p.m.