Western Kentucky rallies, rolls over VMI baseball, 13-5

vmi_logoThe VMI Keydets jumped out to a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning, but the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers scored the game’s last 10 runs en route to a 13-5 victory Friday night at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky.

With the Keydets (5-9) leading 5-3 and VMI starter Reed Garrett having already thrown 90 pitches through five, WKU (5-7) led off the sixth with an infield hit and a long double to deep right off the Keydet hurler. That brought Micah Gorman out of the bullpen, and he induced a bouncing ball to Thomas Stallings. The play was mishandled for an error, loading the bases. Gorman induced a fielder’s choice ground ball from the next hitter, but shortstop Scott Wilcox followed with a two-run single to tie the game and a Regan Flaherty groundout moments later gave the Hilltoppers the lead for good. The home team would go on to score sixth in the seventh and one in the eighth to account for the final margin.

Gorman (0-1) took the loss in relief, as he was charged with an unearned run in one inning. Austin Clay got the win for Western Kentucky with 2/3 of an inning of work, surviving two hits and a walk to go to 2-0 on the year. WKU scored nine unearned runs in winning the first meeting between the programs on the diamond.

The Keydets seemed to be laden with energy in the early going, perhaps helped by the clear, cool spring day that saw a game-time temperature of 52 degrees. Jordan Tarsovich led off with a ringing double to right-center, and Brandon Angus reached with WKU starter Tanner Perkins mishandled a sacrifice bunt. Perkins recovered, however, getting Rob Dickinson to bounce into a double play. The run scored, but the next batter, Nick Dwyer, struck out to limit the Keydets to just one run.

That would be VMI’s last lead until the sixth inning, as the home team got to Garrett for two in the bottom of the first. Thomas Peter doubled on the first pitch, and two batters later, Devin Kelly walked. Ryan Messex then followed with a double of his own, scoring two runs, and the next two batters drew walks to load the bases. Garrett, however, wriggled off the hook masterfully by getting a ground out to retire the side.

Neither team scored again until the fourth, when with one out, Dickinson hit a long home run to right field that appeared to hit the back of the VMI bullpen. The solo shot was his first of the year, and it tied the contest up, 2-2.

WKU came right back against Garrett, as Trevor Lowe led off the fourth with a double. Peter followed with a single to right, scoring Lowe and giving the Hilltoppers the lead once again, 3-2.

The Keydets tied it in the fifth by taking advantage of a WKU miscue. Stallings led off with a walk and moved to second on a balk. Matt Winn bunted him to third base, and Drew Bryan drove him home with a sacrifice fly, making it a 3-3 game.

VMI then retook the lead in the sixth, when Angus led off with an infield hit and moved to second on a wild pitch. Dickinson moved him over with an infield out, and, after a Dwyer strikeout, Angus scored on another wild pitch to put VMI up, 4-3. A Sheldon Shifflett double later in the inning pushed that margin to two, 5-3, and set up the WKU sixth inning rally.

Down only 6-5, the Keydets put together a rally in the seventh. Winn was hit by a pitch, and Bryan had an infield hit. Ray Lopez pinch-ran for Winn, however, and was picked off second base for the first out. Tarsovich walked and Angus legged out a fielder’s choice, but Dickinson grounded out with the tying run on third base to end the inning. The home team then scored six times in the seventh to break the game open, en route to the 13-5 final score.

Neither starter figured in the decision, with Garrett surrendering five runs (four earned) in five-plus innings. He walked a career-high five and struck out three, while WKU’s Perkins allowed four runs, all earned, in 5 1/3 innings.

Offensively, the Keydets were led by Shifflett, who went 2 for 3 with a RBI. Wilcox had four hits to lead the home team.

VMI baseball will return to action Saturday, as the Keydets and Western Kentucky play game two of their three-game set. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. ET.

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