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VMI loses series finale to VCU, 8-4

vmi_logoThe VCU Rams scored twice in the third inning to take the lead for good, and then broke open a close game with a four-run ninth en route to an 8-4 win over the VMI Keydets Sunday afternoon at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va. The contest was the finale of a three-game series between the clubs, won by VMI two games to one.

With the Rams (15-14) nursing a 4-2 lead in the ninth, Tom Crimi led off with a walk against VMI’s (16-19) Taylor Edens. Reed Garrett relieved, and after a sacrifice bunt, Bill Cullen was intentionally walked. After a close 2-2 pitch, James Bunn walked as well and Joey Cujas dunked a two-run single into center field, scoring two runs and giving the visitors a 6-2 lead. Trevor Marino struck out, but Vimael Machin drove a two-run double just over the outstretched glove of Jordan Tarsovich in left center, scoring two additional runs and putting the game out of reach. Matt Winn had a two-run single in the ninth inning to account for the final margin, 8-4.

Logan Kanuik (3-1) notched the victory for VCU, going the final 7 2/3 innings in relief and allowing only the two ninth-inning runs. He walked three and struck out six after starter Seth Greene gave up six hits in just 1 1/3 innings.

Jeremy Brown (3-1) took the loss after giving up three runs in 4 1/3 frames, and was relieved after being struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Bill Cullen in the fifth inning. After a brief delay, Brown was able to walk off the field under his own power.

Offensively, the Keydets were led by Matt Winn’s 3 for 4, three RBI game that extended his hitting streak to 10 games and his streak of reaching base to 19 consecutive contests. Winn went 10 for 15 on the week (.667) with five RBI, six runs scored and an on-base percentage over .700.

VCU took the early lead, scoring in the first against Brown. Cullen led off with a double and an infield out moved him to third. Cujas then singled to left, scoring Cullen to give VCU a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom half, it took the Keydets just two pitches to tie the score, as Tarsovich launched a solo home run over the left field scoreboard to knot the contest, 1-1. One out later, Rob Dickinson singled, stole second and scored on a Matt Winn single to give VMI a 2-1 lead. Red Dowdell and Brandon Angus then had back to back singles, loading the bases, but Thomas Stallings hit a hard liner to left and Cody Holder struck out, ending the inning.

The Keydets threatened in the second as well, when Drew Bryan was hit by a pitch to start the frame. One out later, Will Connerley singled and Kanuik relieved starter Seth Greene for VCU. Dickinson moved the runners with a groundout, and Kanuik intentionally walked Winn to get to Dowdell. The strategy paid off, as Dowdell struck out looking to end the inning.

From that point forward, the Keydets would get just one runner to second base until the ninth inning. VCU, meanwhile, quickly took advantage, as Cullen walked to lead off the third. Bunn followed with a single, and Cujas drove a 0-1 pitch off the left center field wall for a double, scoring Cullen to tie the game, 2-2. One out later, Machin had a sacrifice fly to give the visitors a 3-2 advantage.

The Rams added on in the fifth after Andrew Woods relieved Brown. Bunn reached on a wild pitch following a strikeout, stole second and advanced to third on Winn’s throwing error. One out later, Brent Mikionis had a RBI single to make it a 4-2 game.

The Keydets had two on with two out in the fifth, but Stallings grounded out to end the threat. VCU threatened in the eighth, but Edens pitched around a two-out double. The Rams, however, broke through in the ninth for their four-run outburst that put the game away. Kanuik walked two and gave up Winn’s sharp two-run single in the ninth, but induced a Sheldon Shifflett groundout to end the game and preserve the VCU win.

“It’s always good to get a series win against an in-state opponent,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “You have to tip your cap to Logan Kanuik, he did a great job coming in in the second inning and finishing up the game for them. We had some chances early today, and we didn’t take advantage of them. They did a great job extending the lead in the ninth against Reed Garrett and Taylor Edens. Matt Winn had a great weekend for us, and now we have to get ready to play William & Mary on Tuesday.”   VMI baseball will return to action Tuesday, as the Keydets play host to William & Mary at Gray-Minor Stadium. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.