BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - The VMI Keydets saw starting pitcher Connor Bach throw five shutout innings, but the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers scored four runs against the Keydet bullpen and went on to take a 4-3 win in game two of the three-game non-conference series, contested Saturday at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky.
After Bach went five innings, reliever Jeremy Brown eluded a jam in the sixth and the Keydets (5-10) held a 3-0 lead headed to the seventh. WKU (6-7), however, scored twice in that frame off Brown, doing so on a Thomas Peter two-run single. The Hilltoppers then took the lead against Keydet closer John Garrett in the eighth, taking advantage of a RBI triple by Anderson Miller and a RBI double by Ryan Messex to take the eventual winning margin, 4-3.
A day after struggling defensively in a 13-5 loss, the Keydets played errorless ball in a game that, for the most part, was a crisp, well-played contest on both sides. While the teams did combine to issue 11 walks, there was just one wild pitch a day after the schools had thrown a combined seven in Friday's contest.
Rob Dickinson led the Keydet offense by going 2 for 2 and reaching base in all four of his plate appearances. Dickinson also narrowly missed an incredible, diving over-the-shoulder catch on Miller's game-tying triple in the eighth. Nick Dwyer added two hits as well for VMI, while Messex and Ryan Huck had multiple-hit games for the Hilltoppers.
The Keydets drew first blood for the second straight day, as with two out in the first, Dickinson drilled a double to right field and Dwyer followed with a RBI single for a 1-0 Keydet lead. Bach, meanwhile, cruised through the first three innings, allowing just one baserunner, but WKU threatened in the fourth. With one out, Regan Flaherty walked and one out later, Huck singled to center. Bach recovered, however, and induced a groundout to end the inning.
VMI then added on in the fifth, when Sheldon Shifflett led off with a single. Matt Winn sacrificed him to second, and he moved to third on a wild pitch. Drew Bryan then grounded out to second base, scoring Shifflett and giving the Keydets a 2-0 lead. That margin grew to 3-0 in the sixth, when Dickinson walked with two out. Dwyer singled to left, and Cody Holder legged out an infield hit to load the bases. That brought freshman Red Dowdell off the VMI bench to pinch-hit, and Dowdell was able to coax a walk on a 3-2 pitch to plate a run, pushing the VMI lead to three.
Brown came on in relief for the sixth inning, and quickly retired the first two hitters. He appeared to lose his command after that, however, walking the next two and going 3-0 on Miller, representing the tying run. The fifth-year senior rallied, however, as he induced a fly out to left to end the inning.
The Keydets put a runner at second with one out in the seventh, but could not get him home, and WKU notched two in the bottom half on Peter's two-run single. With one out in the eighth, Dickinson was hit by a pitch and went to second on a balk, putting VMI in the same situation it had been in just one inning prior - A runner at second with only one out. Ian Tompkins, however, struck out Dwyer and Holder to end the inning, the Hilltoppers scored twice in the eighth and the Keydets managed only a one-out walk in the ninth as WKU prevailed, 4-3.
Neither starter was involved in the decision, as Bach went five innings, allowing just two hits and two walks. He struck out two as well in his best outing so far this season, while Andrew Edwards surrendered three runs in six frames for the home team. Garrett (1-1) was charged with the loss, giving up three hits, a walk and two runs in his inning of work, while Tompkins (1-1) struck out all five batters he retired in picking up the victory.
VMI returns to action Sunday, as the Keydets and WKU will play the series finale in Bowling Green, Ky. Due to the threat of afternoon rain, first pitch is now set for noon ET and 11 a.m. CT.