VMI breaks losing skid

Edited by Chris Graham

An 11-game losing streak came to an end Sunday afternoon, as VMI jumped out to an early lead and held off Radford to claim a 7-5 win in Big South Conference baseball action at Gray-Minor Stadium.

The win gives VMI (30-16, 11-10 Big South) its third 30-win season in program history, while the loss prevented Radford (23-20, 10-8 Big South) from a series sweep.

The triumph was the first for the Keydets since a 12-3 upset of #1 Virginia last month.

VMI jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first, thanks to an RBI single from Jordan Ballard and a towering, three-run home run to left field by Alex Haitsuka. The Keydets tacked on another in the third, when Chase Worthington’s sacrifice fly plated Graham Sullivan to take a 5-0 lead.

Keydet starter Sam Roberts (6-3), meanwhile, left two men stranded in the first and retired seven in a row before allowing a leadoff single to Matt Hillsinger in the fourth. Raphael Turner followed with a walk before Alex Guerra’s full-count double made it a 5-2 game. Guerra then scored two batters later on an Andrew Cook groundout, cutting the margin to two runs.

Radford threatened again in the fifth, when Brett Mollenhauer led off with a single and moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Reggie Keen followed with a single into right-center field that Mollenhauer attempted to score on. Ombri Rivers came up throwing and unleashed a laser of a throw to the plate, as Haitsuka blocked the dish and slapped down the tag to keep the game at 5-3.

The Keydets answered in the fifth with Worthington plating his second run, this time on a single into right-center field, and on a sacrifice fly from Rob Dickinson. Roberts responded with his third 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, sending the Keydets to the back-third of the ballgame with a 7-3 advantage.

The Highlander bats were not done, however, as Mollenhauer drew a one-out walk in the seventh, followed by a two-run home run from Keen. That spelled the end of the day for Roberts, who had a career-best nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits.

Chris Duty went the rest of the way for VMI by retiring all seven batters he faced, three on strikeouts. The redshirt junior picked up his first save of the season and the third of his career.

“Sam Roberts gave us the performance that we needed today on the mound,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “I was really pleased with how we played offense; we were able to expand the lead when needed to. We got a big at bat from Alex Haitsuka, a three-run home run to put us up early. I was pleased with our energy today, and it was the first time in two weeks that we had some things go our way to allow us to expand the lead. Chris Duty came in and did a great job in relief to earn his first save of the season. Hopefully this win can get us back on track, especially now going into exam break.”

Bobby Bolling (2-2) took the loss for Radford, allowing five runs on five hits in his 2.1 innings. Brad Wimmer followed on the mound, allowing two runs in 3.2 innings, before Abram Williams worked two perfect innings to close out the game.

Haitsuka drove home three runs and scored twice on his 2 for 3 day, while Worthington plated two more. Ombri Rivers also went 2 for 4 with a stolen base, as eight of the nine Keydet starters had a hit in the contest. Keen and Guerra, meanwhile, each had a pair of RBIs for the visitors.

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