VMI finishes sweep of Asheville

Jason Farley went seven strong innings, allowing just a single earned run, and the VMI offense pounded out 13 hits as the Keydets completed a sweep of the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 10-2, Sunday afternoon at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va.

Farley (4-7) blanked Asheville for the first five innings, before allowing an unearned run in the fifth. He was also tagged for a single run in the eighth, after leaving the ball game. The redshirt junior threw just 81 pitches, 58 of which were strikes, en route to his second-longest outing of the season. The win was Farley’s second of the week, and over his last four outings (21 innings), he is 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA.

Tommy Houmard (2-4) took the loss for the Bulldogs (15-33, 7-17 Big South), as he was tagged for eight runs, six of which were earned, over 4.2 innings.

Meanwhile, the Keydet (25-22-1, 12-12) offense scored two runs in the first inning and three in the fourth, before breaking the game open in the fifth. Graham Sullivan led off with a single, and George Piccirilli followed with one of his own. After a sacrifice bunt, Houmard struck out Jacob Morley, but on a 1-0 pitch, Justin Topping launched a three-run homer over the left-field wall to put VMI up 8-0. It was Topping’s first long ball of the year.

Asheville would score single runs in the sixth and eighth, but VMI notched single markers in the seventh and eighth to account for the final margin.

Offensively, Sullivan was 3 for 5 with three runs scored, while Piccirilli added three hits of his own. Sullivan hit .471 over VMI’s four games this week, driving in six runs and scoring nine. For the series, VMI outscored Asheville 34-10, including 25-3 over the final two games.

The Keydets jumped ahead in the first inning on Sunday, as the teams played on the humid, 78-degree afternoon. Sam Roberts led off with a double, moving him into sole possession of third place on VMI’s career doubles list, and Sullivan drove him in with an RBI double of his own. Just seven pitches into the game, VMI had a 1-0 lead, and that grew to 2-0 moments later. Piccirilli had a bunt hit, and Alex Haitsuka plated a run by hitting into a double play.

The home team struck again in the fourth, when Morley led off with a single. Topping walked on four pitches, and Rob Dickinson put down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners. Chase Worthington followed with a sacrifice fly, scoring Morley, and Justin Hess reached on an error. A passed ball scored Topping and moved Hess up a base, and a wild pitch followed. The ball caromed away from home plate and towards the Asheville dugout, which allowed Hess to score from second base and the Keydets to take a 5-0 lead. Morley’s single was the only hit in the three-run fourth.

The Bulldogs went in order in the fifth, setting the stage for the key VMI inning. With the Keydets up 8-0 following Topping’s home run, Asheville put together its first rally of the day. With one out, Beau Zinman was hit by a pitch, and Mike Vaughn followed with a single. The next batter, Patrick Koontz, hit a ground ball to Roberts at short. He flipped to Hess covering to force Vaughn, but the relay throw was low and bounced away at first base, allowing Zinman to score on the error and make the score, 8-1.

VMI got that run back in the seventh, when Sullivan singled, stole second and scored on a double by Piccirilli. Asheville cut the margin to 9-2 in the eighth, and knocked out Farley in the process. Three straight singles sent the Keydet starter off the mound to a rousing ovation, but reliever Michael Devine induced a double play and a strikeout, allowing the Bulldogs just one run.

An RBI single by Hess in the eighth capped the scoring, and accounted for the final margin of 10-2.

With the victory, VMI moves into a tie with Radford for sixth place in the Big South standings with three games remaining. The fourth-sixth place squads are separated by just a single game.

The Keydets will return to action Tuesday for their final non-conference contest of the year, as they travel to Blacksburg, Va. to take on Virginia Tech. Game time is set for 5:30 p.m.

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