LEXINGTON, Va. – Rob Dickinson’s chase for .400 came down to the final at-bat of his collegiate career, but the senior grounded out to second base to start the eighth inning and his VMI Keydets fell to the High Point Panthers, 6-4, in VMI’s 2013 season finale Saturday at Gray-Minor Stadium.
Dickinson closed out his season with a 1 for 4 day and a .399 batting average, which tied for the sixth-highest single season mark in recorded VMI baseball history. It was the highest batting average by a Keydet since VMI Hall of Famer and current Old Dominion coach Chris Finwood hit .399 in 1988.
After looping a single to center in the first to raise his average to .405, Dickinson struck out in the second and grounded to first in the fifth. That set up a dramatic eighth-inning at-bat, in which the senior needed a hit or walk to keep his average above the .400 level. High Point’s (29-27, 15-9 Big South) Jared Avidon missed with the first two pitches, but Dickinson hit a high hopping ground ball to second baseman Dane McDermott on the 2-0 pitch. McDermott completed the play to retire Dickinson without incident and account for the final batting average, .399.
The contest itself had featured the Keydets (20-35, 6-18 Big South) taking a 4-2 lead into the ninth, but High Point rallied against John Garrett (3-5). The first four Panthers singled, capped by a RBI hit by Ryan Retz that cut the margin to 4-3. Spencer Angelis then flied to right, driving home the tying run in the person of Willie Medina. That left runners at second and third with only one out, and Josh Spano drove in another run with a RBI single, giving HPU its first lead of the day, 5-4. Adam Barry had a RBI groundout against Andrew Woods to cap the scoring, and Avidon struck out the side in the ninth to account for the final margin.
Garrett took the loss after being charged with four runs, all earned, on six hits in 1 1/3 innings, while Avidon pitched four hitless innings in relief to move to 6-3 on the season. The late bullpen trouble caused VMI to waste another strong Connor Bach outing, as the junior threw seven innings, scattering seven hits and giving up just one earned run.
The Keydets jumped on High Point for four quick runs in the first. Jordan Tarsovich led off with a walk and advanced to third after HPU starter Retz threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt. Ray Lopez singled home a run and promptly stole second, advancing to third when Angelis threw the ball into center field. Dickinson plated Lopez with a single and Matt Winn followed with a hit of his own. Brandon Angus drove in a run with a groundout, and Thomas Stallings capped the VMI scoring with a single to center, plating Winn to make it a 4-0 contest.
High Point got on the board in the fourth, thanks to a two-out rally that started when Spano singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Barry then hit a hard ground ball, three steps to the right of Stallings at second base. The ball caromed off his glove into short center field for an error, allowing Spano to score to cut the lead to 4-1.
The Panthers grabbed another run in the seventh, when Kyle Brandenburg led off with a bunt single against Bach. Brandenburg moved to second on an infield out, and Willie Medina followed with a grounder up the middle. Stallings made a diving stop to his right and got up quickly, but his throw was wild and bounced into the Keydet dugout for an error, allowing Brandenburg to score to cut the lead to 4-2. Garrett worked around a leadoff double in the eighth, but Avidon also evaded damage after a one-out error in the bottom half. That set up the decisive HPU rally in the ninth.
Before the game, the Keydets honored all five of their seniors, including Jeremy Brown, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch just days after graduating despite being hit in the head with a line drive April 7 against VCU. Brown leaves VMI in the program’s career top 10 in five different pitching categories, while Dickinson finished his career in VMI’s top-10 in 11 offensive categories. Garrett, Andrew Montague and Miles McQuaig were also honored.