Keydet Rally Falls Short, UNCG Eliminates VMI 4-2
Courtesy: John Crouch
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Keydet Rally Falls Short, UNCG Eliminates VMI 4-2

GREENVILLE, S.C. – A two-run home run from Zack Budzik in the top of the ninth inning gave the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) a 4-2 victory over the VMI baseball team Thursday in an elimination game of the 2019 Southern Conference Tournament at Fluor Field. The seventh-seeded Keydets loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth looking for a walk-off win or to force extra innings, but Spartan closer Chad Sykes struck out the final two batters.

VMI junior right-hander Jacob Menders allowed a run in the top of the first, but then settled down. He worked 8 1/3 innings, allowing just six hits, three walks and three earned runs while striking out three. He was the tough-luck loser, evening his record at 5-5 and finishing the season with a 4.15 ERA.

Trailing 1-0, VMI’s Jon Clines led off the third with a single and advanced to second on a balk. Josh Hollifield moved the runner to third on a sacrifice bunt and Clines came home on a Cody Warner single. UNCG, the tournament's #3 seed, worked out of an ensuing bases-loaded jam, and VMI left eight runners stranded on base the first three innings.

Junior Ryan Hatten drilled a one-out triple off the centerfield fence in the fifth, and Warner singled again to bring him home and put VMI ahead 2-1. The Spartans took advantage of a Keydet error in the top of the seventh to tie the game at two.

Following Budzik’s two-run homer in the ninth, Clines and Hollifield singled and Nathan Loyd walked to load the bases in the bottom of the frame. Sykes worked out of the jam, getting the final two Keydets on called third strikes.  

Loyd reached base safely all five times he was at the plate with a single and four walks. Callen Nuccio, Clines and Warner each had two hits for VMI (17-41).The Keydets left 14 runners left on base and had two runners thrown out stealing. 

UNCG (34-19) will play Friday at 3:30 p.m., facing the loser of Thursday’s #1 Samford/#4 Mercer game.