Josh Winder pitched eight shutout innings and Jacob Jaye drove in four runs against SoCon Pitcher of the Year JP Sears, sending the #9 VMI Keydets past the #8 The Citadel Bulldogs, 8-0, in the opening game of the 2017 SoCon Baseball Championship, presented by Holston Gases.
That would be all the sophomore right-hander would need, as he allowed just one extra-base hit over his eight frames of work. He walked one and struck out six, strikeouts that pushed him past Michael Bowman’s 110 in 2007 for a new single-season school record. Those K’s also tied him with Trey Barham for the career postseason school record, with 16.
Winder (7-6) also became the first Keydet to surpass 100 innings pitched in a single season, as he and Michael Geary combined on just the second combined shutout ever thrown by Keydet baseball in a postseason game, following an 8-0 blanking of Georgia Southern on April 29, 1993.
Sears (7-3), meanwhile, gave up seven runs on four hits and five walks in 2 1/3 innings. He struck out four, but hit three batters and threw two wild pitches.
The Keydets threatened in the first, when Sears gave up a one-out double to Matt Pita. Tyler Tharp was hit by a pitch and Peyton Maddox walked, but Collin Fleischer hit into a spectacularly turned double play to kill the rally. VMI scored in the second when Jaye doubled home a run, but left the bases loaded and took a 1-0 lead to the third.
That was when the Keydets exploded. Sears walked the bases loaded in a sequence highlighted by an 11-pitch at-bat by Jake Huggins that saw him battle back from down 0-2. A run scored on a wild pitch, and Josh Hollifield singled home another run for a 3-0 lead. An attempted squeeze bunt allowed Michael Diodato to plate the fourth run, and Jaye followed with his 11th homer of the year to knock Sears from the game.
Winder cruised from that point forward, allowing just three hits over the rest of his outing. He struck out Clay Martin to end the sixth for his 111th strikeout of the year to pass Bowman’s school record, and the Keydets capped the scoring with a Fleischer RBI single in the ninth. Michael Geary pitched the ninth and allowed just a single in completing the shutout.
Offensively, Pita joined Jaye with a multi-hit game while Joe Sabatini had the lone two-hit game for The Citadel (16-35).
VMI now enters the main double-elimination draw of the SoCon Championship, and will begin its title chase Wednesday at12:30 p.m. against top-seeded Mercer.