A long home run by Collin Fleischer tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, and a bizarre three-error sequence gave the VMI Keydets a walk-off, 8-7 win over the UNCG Spartans in 10 innings Saturday in Lexington, Va. With the win, the Keydets (20-26, 6-11 SoCon) ensure themselves of a SoCon series victory at home for the first time since May of 2015.
In the bottom of the 10th, Maynard retired the first two hitters and appeared to be on his way to a 1-2-3 inning when Jacob Jaye popped up into short right-center. Second baseman Austin Embler dropped the ball, however, and center fielder Andrew Moritz then threw it away for a second error on the play. When the dust settled, Jaye was at third base and Fleischer followed with a grounder to third. Caleb Webster fielded the ball cleanly, but bounced his throw to first base for an error, allowing Jaye to score the winning run.
Offensively, Tyler Tharp continued his hot weekend with three hits, while Matt Pita, Jake Huggins and Matt Dunlevy all had two hits apiece. Fleischer and Jaye both homered, with Fleischer’s long ball making him the 10th player in school history to hit at least 30 home runs in a career.
Embler and Moritz had three hits apiece for the Spartans.
The Keydets scored in the first, when Tharp singled home a run, and UNCG tied it with a run in the fourth. VMI responded in a big way in the bottom of that frame, however, with a four-run frame that was highlighted by Jaye’s two-run homer, his ninth of the year that gave VMI a 5-1 lead.
The Keydets tacked on another run in the sixth, but UNCG rallied in the eighth against Ryan Bennett. A RBI double by Webster and a RBI single by Embler cut the margin to 6-3 heading to the ninth, and after the first two hitters reached against Bennett, Derek Tremblay was summoned.
Moritz greeted him with a RBI double and Cesar Trejo followed with a sacrifice fly, cutting the lead to one at 6-5. Matt Eagle was summoned out of the bullpen and struck out Webster, but Embler blooped a 1-0 pitch down the left field line for a two-run single that gave UNCG its first lead of the night, 7-6.
Fleischer’s home run in the bottom of the ninth then tied it, and set the stage for the 10th inning dramatics.
The winning pitcher in relief was Eagle (4-3), who went 1 2/3 innings and whiffed four of the five batters he retired. Maynard (3-3) took the loss in 1 2/3 innings of two-run baseball.
Neither starter got a decision, as Matt Frisbee was knocked out after five innings of baseball, in which he gave up six runs. Brandon Barbery pitched perhaps his best game of the season, as he allowed just one run on six hits with six strikeouts over seven frames.
With the win, the Keydets are now 18-1 when leading after eight innings and 3-1 in extra innings.
VMI and UNCG wrap up their SoCon series Sunday at 2 p.m., with the Keydet baseball seniors set to be honored in a pre-game ceremony that will begin at 1:35 p.m.