VMI falls to Coastal Carolina, 3-2

vmi_logoAn epic back and forth contest ended with trickery and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers survived a VMI Keydet rally in the 12th to escape with a 3-2 win Friday, in the opener of a three-game Big South series at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va.

After Coastal (14-11, 3-1 Big South) had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the inning, VMI’s (12-16, 3-4 BSC) Jordan Tarsovich was hit by a Ryan Connolly pitch with one out in the bottom of the 12th. Rob Dickinson bounced into a force play, and a potential game-ending pop fly was dropped by Chanticleer second baseman Jake Kane to put runners at the corners with two out. Michael Donovan pinch ran at first base, representing the winning run, and Connolly quickly threw to first. On the next play, the side-arming right-hander faked a throw to third, whirled and threw to first for what resulted in a 1-3-6 pickoff, ending the game.

On the mound, Connolly (1-2) picked up the victory, as the senior pitched 2 2/3 hitless innings for his first win of the season. Reed Garrett (1-3) took the loss for the Keydets despite a strong outing. Garrett allowed just two hits over five relief innings, walking three and recording one strikeout. All told, the Coastal bullpen allowed just one hit and two walks over 5 2/3 innings of work, and was nearly matched by the Keydet bullpen’s two hits and three walks.

The Keydets jumped ahead in the first against visiting starter Ben Smith. Tarsovich tripled to right field, and just three pitches later, Dickinson had a sacrifice fly to put the Keydets ahead, 1-0.

Coastal threatened in the third against Connor Bach, when Connor Owings singled to lead off the inning. Nick Oberg walked, and Ted Blackman bunted both runners up. Bach induced a shallow pop-up to right from Jacob May, however, and after a walk, retired Will Remillard to end the inning.

VMI added a run in the fourth, as Will Connerley led off with a walk. One out later, Matt Winn singled and Brandon Angus walked to load the bases. Nick Dwyer then drove a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Connerley for a 2-0 Keydet lead.

The visitors tied it in the fifth with a two-out rally off Bach, as Blackman doubled off the left center field fence and May followed with a home run off the scoreboard. May’s third long ball of the season tied the game at 2.

From there, the teams settled in for what would soon be a battle of the bullpens. Smith pitched out of trouble in the fifth, and Bach did so in the sixth. The Keydets had an excellent chance in the bottom of that inning, but Smith struck out Dwyer and Ray Lopez with the go-ahead run at third, while Garrett foiled a Coastal one-out double in the seventh by getting May and Colin Hering.

The contest went to the seventh still tied, and after throwing 22 pitches to the first three hitters, two of whom drew walks, Smith was pulled with two on and one out. Patrick Corbett relieved to face Connerley, but Dickinson was picked off first base by catcher Will Remillard for the second out. Connerley then bounced out to end the inning.

VMI just missed going ahead in the eighth. Red Dowdell led off with a walk, and Brandon Diamond pinch ran at first base. Winn moved him over with a sacrifice bunt, and an Angus fly ball pushed Diamond to third with two out. Dwyer then hit a 0-1 pitch off the handle into very short center field, but Coastal shortstop Oberg made a sensational, sliding over the shoulder catch with his back to home plate to preserve the 2-2 tie.

Garrett pitched around a leadoff error in the 10th, and the Keydets threatened in the bottom half. Dickinson led off with an infield hit and moved to second on Connerley’s sacrifice bunt. Sheldon Shifflett came off the bench to pinch-hit, and Connolly came out of the Coastal bullpen to face him. An intentional walk put two on with just one out, but Winn bounced into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

A leadoff Coastal single in the 11th went for naught, and the Keydets could not take advantage of a one-out baserunner in the bottom half. The Chanticleers, however, struck in the 12th. Blackman led off with a single to center, and May bunted him into scoring position. Garrett hit Hering on a 1-2 pitch, and Will Remillard walked to load the bases. Kane then walked on a close 3-1 pitch, forcing in the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Andrew Montague relieved and escaped further damage in the inning, setting up the bottom of the 12th.

Both starting pitchers finished with solid results in the final box score, with Bach going 6 1/3 innings and giving up two runs. He walked four and struck out three. Smith gave up two runs in 6 1/3 as well, walking six and striking out five. Offensively, Winn had the lone multi-hit game for VMI, going 2 for 4, while Blackman was 3 for 5 for the Chanticleers.

VMI baseball will return to action Saturday, playing host to Coastal Carolina for a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.

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