VMI Keydets fall to Mercer in Game 2, 9-6

vmi baseballThe Mercer Bears scored the final three runs of the game to turn back a comeback by the VMI Keydets and prevail, 9-6, in the middle game of a three-game SoCon series contested Friday in Lexington, Va. With the win, Mercer (31-6, 10-1 SoCon) won the series and its 10th straight game overall.

The Keydets (17-18, 4-7) had rallied from three-run deficits twice to tie the score at six after four innings, but a two-run home run by Mercer’s JT Thomas off Josh Winder in the seventh made it 8-6 and a solo shot by Hunter Bening in the eighth gave Mercer a three-run lead. Bear closer Nick Spear struck out seven of the nine batters he faced to prevent any additional VMI rallies as Mercer held on for the 9-6 win.

On the mound, Winder (5-3) was hit for eight runs in 6 1/3 innings. He walked an uncharacteristic three, after having walked just nine all season entering the game, and failed to strike out a batter for the first time in 23 career starts. Zach Graveno (6-0) pitched 2 1/3 one-hit innings out of the bullpen for the victory, and Spear earned his sixth save.

Mercer jumped out an early 3-0 lead with a five-single first inning. It was the first time since March 10, a span of 31 innings, that an opponent had scored multiple earned runs in an inning off Winder.

That would happen twice more Friday, but first, the Keydets got on the board in the bottom of the inning. A sacrifice fly by Tyler Tharp and a RBI single by Jake Huggins – extending his streak of reaching base to 18 straight games – cut the Mercer lead to 3-2.

A two-run shot by Danny Edgeworth in the third inning made it 5-2, but Tharp hit a two-run opposite field shot in the bottom of the inning and again, it was a one-run game at 5-4. A single run in the fourth gave Mercer a two-run lead, but the Keydets tied it in the bottom of the inning. A RBI single by Peyton Maddox and Tharp’s RBI double knotted the score at six-all.

The two-run homer by Thomas gave Mercer a two-run lead in the seventh, and the Keydets had a golden chance in the bottom of the frame. Huggins walked and Matt Dunlevy doubled him to third. Josh Knies entered and struck out Ryan Hatten, however, and Spear fanned Mason Adamson and Michael Diodato to escape the threat.

The visitors were then able to add an eighth-inning run off closer Ryan Bennett, just the second earned run Bennett had given up this season, to account for the final margin of 9-6.

Offensively, Maddox went 3 for 4 to lead the Keydets, while Tharp went 2 for 4 with four runs batted in. Edgeworth and Ryan Hagan had three-hit games to pace the Bears.

VMI baseball will return to action Saturday, when the Keydets and Mercer wrap up their series at noon.

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