VMI completes season sweep of JMU

The top six hitters in the Keydet lineup had at least two hits apiece and VMI scored nine of its 10 runs with two outs, en route to a 10-4 win over the James Madison Dukes Tuesday night at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va. With the victory, VMI sweeps the season series from JMU for the first time in program history.

George Piccirilli and Alex Haitsuka had three hits apiece, with Haitsuka doing so after missing his first game of the year Saturday. Sam Roberts, Justin Hess, Graham Sullivan and Rob Dickinson all had two hits apiece, as the Keydets posted 15 hits against the Dukes’ pitching staff. Notably, Roberts’ two hits pulled him to within one of tying Kelly Sweppenhiser ’06 for the all-time VMI lead in that category.

As mentioned above, the win gives VMI a season sweep of JMU for the first time in 24 tries, after the Keydets knocked off the Dukes in Harrisonburg for the first time since 1976 with an 8-2 win on March 8.

John Garrett (4-2) earned the win for VMI, allowing three hits and a run over three innings. Garrett retired the first eight James Madison hitters en route to the victory, while Campbell Henkel and Michael Devine combined for five scoreless innings of relief following the Keydet starter. Perhaps most impressively, the Keydet hurlers did not allow a home run to the team leading the country in round-trippers.

Ty McFarland took the loss for JMU to fall to 1-2.

The Keydets jumped ahead quickly in the first. With two outs, Sullivan walked and Piccirilli was hit by a pitch. Haitsuka then singled home a run with a ground ball to left, putting VMI up 1-0.

That margin grew quickly in the second, as once again with two out, the VMI offense struck. With one out, Justin Topping singled. Chase Worthington lined to left for the second out, but Roberts tripled over the head of Dukes’ center fielder Alex Foltz, scoring Topping and making it 2-0, VMI. Hess followed with an RBI single, ending McFarland’s night, and Sullivan and Piccirilli greeted reliever Luke Munson with back-to-back singles. Piccirilli’s scored Hess, making it 4-0, Keydets. After a wild pitch, Haitsuka capped the scoring with another single, this one driving in two to put the home team ahead, 6-0.

The visitors got a run back in the third, when Cole McInturff singled with two outs. Johnny Bladel followed with a single, and Jake Lowery hit a sharp grounder into the hole between the first and second basemen. Hess, ranging far to his left, made a sliding attempt, but the ball caromed away from him and into short right field, allowing McInturff to score and JMU to cut the lead to 6-1.

VMI would strike back in the fourth, when Sullivan doubled to lead off the frame. Piccirilli bunted him to third, but Haitsuka flew out to shallow right. Dickinson picked the Keydets up, however, lacing a double to right center to plate the run and put the Keydet margin at 7-1. They would add a run in the fifth, when Roberts doubled home Worthington to make it 8-1. That fifth-inning run was the only Keydet run of the night that did not come with two outs.

As Henkel and Devine shut down the Dukes’ offense, the home team capped its scoring in the eighth. Sullivan walked with two outs, and Piccirilli singled. Haitsuka then plated Sullivan with an RBI single, and Dickinson drove a double deep down the right field line, scoring Piccirilli to put VMI up, 10-1.

James Madison would score three runs in the ninth to account for the final margin.

The Keydets’ 15-hit attack marked the fifth game this season in which they had banged out at least that many hits, with the team’s season high having come against Charleston Southern on April 15 (19). Piccirilli is now hitting .370 in non-conference play, while Devine’s ERA against opponents not in the Big South is 1.00.

VMI baseball is scheduled to return to action Thursday, taking on defending Big South champion Coastal Carolina in the opener of a three-game road series. Game time in Conway, S.C. is set for 6 p.m.

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