VMI outlasts Radford in 13 innings, 7-5

A returning Matt Pita blooped a RBI single over a drawn-in infield to break a 5-5 tie in the 13th inning, as the VMI Keydets defeated the Radford Highlanders, 7-5, in non-conference action Friday in Radford, Va. The game lasted four hours, 44 minutes, one minute shy of the longest game in VMI baseball history, a 16-inning affair April 13, 2014 at High Point.

vmi baseballWith the score deadlocked at five, Peyton Maddox led off the VMI (18-23) 13th by reaching on a wild pitch after striking out. Tyler Tharp then singled, bringing up Pita, who – prior to Friday night – had not swung a bat in game action since March 21. Pita blooped a 3-1 pitch into right field to score Maddox, and would eventually come in to score himself later in the inning.

Closer Ryan Bennett then retired Radford (16-24) in order to complete an epic five-inning outing, one that saw Bennett throw a career-high 94 pitches.

Bennett (4-0) got the win despite allowing two ninth-inning runs. He gave up six hits and fanned seven in five innings, while Kyle Zurak (3-3) allowed two runs – one earned – in four frames and took the loss.

Radford took a 1-0 lead in the third, but a three-run shot by Tharp by the fourth gave the Keydets a 3-1 edge. That margin grew to 5-1 in the fifth, when Jacob Jaye and Collin Fleischer went back to back for the second time this season. It was the eighth homer of the year for both players.

The Highlanders reduced the margin to 5-3 in the eighth, and used a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to tie the game in the ninth.

The Keydets then had a golden chance in the 11th, when Pita opened the inning with a bunt single, his first hit since returning from injury. Matt Dunlevy then followed with a single, but with runners on the corners, Josh Hollifield popped into a double play on a bunt. Mason Adamson then grounded out to end the inning.

Bennett worked around a two-out double in the 11th, but needed some magic to escape the 12th. Danny Hrbek led off with a single and stole second. One out later, Matt Roth was intentionally walked but Richard De la Cruz foiled the strategy with a base hit, loading the bases.

Mason Scoville tried to win the game with a squeeze bunt, but Hrbek was thrown out at the plate by Bennett for the second out. Bennett then struck out the next batter, setting the stage for VMI’s winning rally.

The starters were long gone by the time the game wrapped up, and both got no decision. Radford’s Zach Ridgely allowed five runs – four earned – in five innings, while Josh Winder rebounded from consecutive sub-par outings to handcuff Radford. Winder went seven innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out 10.

Offensively, the Keydets were led by Tharp, who went 3 for 6 with three runs driven in, including his home run. Four other players added two hits apiece, while for Radford, Roth had three hits.

VMI and Radford continue their series Saturday at 4 p.m. in Radford.

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