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VMI wins slugfest with George Mason, 20-17

vmiIn the longest nine-inning game in VMI baseball history, the VMI Keydets rallied from a 10-run deficit and held on to defeat the George Mason Patriots, 20-17, Wednesday night at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington. The four hour, 37 minute game time fell just nine minutes shy of breaking the program record, set in a 16-inning affair in 2014, and marked the most combined runs scored in a VMI baseball game since March 18, 2000.

George Mason jumped out to the early 10-0 lead, as the Patriots scored five times in both the first and second innings. The uprisings were highlighted by a three-run, second inning shot by catcher Garett Driscoll, but VMI (11-8) roared back with four in the second and eight in the third and never trailed again.

Nathan Eaton (1-0) picked up the win in relief despite giving up seven runs on seven hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings, while Evan Porcella (0-2) took the loss. Porcella, the third GMU (4-13) pitcher, gave up four runs in 1 2/3 innings. Taylor Edens pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save of the season and 17th of his career, setting a new program record.

Mason jumped out to the early advantage with five runs in the first inning, as VMI starter Jared Silva labored through a 41-pitch first inning. Silva hit two and walked two in the frame.

The margin grew to 10-0 in the second behind five more runs, including Driscoll’s three-run shot off reliever Eaton that capped the early outbursts. The Keydets countered with four runs in the second, including a RBI single for Jacob Jaye, a two-run double for Will Malbon and a RBI single by David Geary that made it 10-4, Mason.

VMI turned the game around in the third, sending 11 hitters to the plate. The Keydets scored eight runs on the benefit of only three hits, the big blow of which was a three-run shot by Matt Dunlevy over the right-field batting cages. When the dust had settled, there had been three walks, two hit batters and three hits in the frame and all had scored to give VMI a 12-10 lead.

The Keydets added two runs in both the fourth and fifth and led 16-10, but Mason battled back. A three-run homer by Brandon Gum fueled a four-run top of the sixth that cut the VMI lead to two, 16-14.

The scoring was far from done, as Geary poked a RBI double to left center in the bottom of the frame to push the lead back to four, 18-14.

Mason answered right back in the seventh, thanks to a two-run double by Driscoll and a RBI single by Gum, but in the key at-bat of the game, Brandon Barbery retired Alejandro Aponte with the tying run at third to end the inning, and the Keydets took advantage in the bottom of the frame.

Tyler Tharp led off the inning with a single and was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Matt Pita. Ryan Smoot walked and Pita stole third. The freshman then scored on a bunt single by Jaye, and Eaton added a RBI hit later in the frame to cap the scoring.

Barbery, making his first career relief appearance, allowed just a scratch single in the eighth and yielded the ball to Edens, who allowed the first two hitters to reach to bring the tying run to the plate. A shallow pop to right and two strikeouts ended the game, however, and gave VMI its first win over George Mason since 1990.

Offensively, Geary led the way for the Keydets by going 4 for 5 with five RBI, while Dunlevy added a 3 for 3, four RBI game. Jaye, Malbon and Pita scored three runs apiece and Jaye drove in three as well. The 37 combined runs scored were a Gray-Minor Stadium record and the most scored in a VMI baseball game since Furman and the Keydets combined for 43 on March 18, 2000. Every starting position player for both teams reached base via a walk, hit or hit by pitch.

Driscoll went 4 for 5 with six RBI to lead Mason.

VMI baseball will return to action Friday, when the Keydets play host to Rider to open a three-game series. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.

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