HIGH POINT, N.C. – Brandon Angus tripled home the go-ahead run in the 16th inning, giving the VMI Keydets a lead they would not relinquish en route to a 4-2 win over the High Point Panthers in Big South action Sunday in High Point, N.C. The 16-inning contest equaled the longest game in modern VMI baseball history, previously accomplished twice during the 2008 season, and is believed to be the longest Keydet game ever by time at four hours, 45 minutes.
After High Point (20-16, 8-7 Big South) put the potential winning run in scoring position in the 13th, 14th and 15th innings and could not cash in, the Keydets (20-14, 8-7 Big South) did so in the 16th. David Geary led off with a walk against HPU closer John Maloney and stole second.
Angus then lofted a fly ball down the right field line that right fielder Dane McDermott made a diving attempt on, but was unable to come up with as the ball wound up just fair. Geary scored easily to give VMI the lead, and Angus would score when Eric Mayers followed with a sacrifice fly to account for the final margin, 4-2.
In the victory, the Keydets used nine pitchers, including Taylor Edens for 2 1/3 innings one day after he fired three scoreless frames. Travis Thomas went the longest of the relievers, with a 3 2/3 inning outing, his longest appearance since April of 2010.
All told, the VMI bullpen allowed 10 hits and six walks in 10 1/3 scoreless innings. Miles McQuaig picked up his first win of the year as he pitched the last 1 2/3 frames and allowed just one baserunner, while Maloney dropped to 2-3 by taking the loss for High Point.
Both teams had their issues with runners in scoring position, as despite a combined 21 total hits, the teams left a total of 37 runners on base (20 HPU, 17 VMI). VMI drew 13 walks, tying a school record accomplished twice previously. Angus, Cameron Walter and Matt Winn all had two hits apiece for the Keydets, while Cody Manzella went 4 for 7 to lead the home team.
VMI got on the board in the third inning when Winn led off with a single. One out later, Jordan Tarsovich walked and Geary followed with a walk as well. Angus then hit a hard ground ball to shortstop that was booted by Tony Fortier-Benson for an error, allowing both Winn and Tarsovich to score to give VMI a 2-0 lead.
High Point rallied in the bottom of the fourth when Kyle Brandenburg and Josh Greene reached to open the inning. Spencer Angelis bunted both runners up a base, and after a strikeout, Brady Williamson singled up the middle to score two runs and tie the game, 2-2. VMI starter Andrew Woods pitched out of further trouble, however, striking out Fortier-Benson with runners at the corners to end the inning.
For the first of many times on the bright, sunny day, VMI threatened to take the lead once again in the fifth. Tanner Dofflemyer walked and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Geary and Angus then drew walks as well, knocking Andre Scrubb, High Point’s starter, from the game. Reliever Conor Lourey induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Mayers, however, to retire the side. Lourey would go on to pitch 7 2/3 shutout innings.
Meanwhile, the Keydets left two on once again in the sixth and High Point rallied in the bottom half. Angelis led off with a walk and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. One out later, Austin Heenan relieved Woods and walked Manzella. That brought Rian Ellis out of the bullpen and he gave up an infield hit, loading the bases for Chris Clare. Clare flew out to center field on a 3-2 pitch to end the threat.
VMI left runners in scoring position in both the seventh and eighth, and Thomas worked around a one-out single in the ninth to send the game to extra innings still tied. The Panthers had the first threat in extra innings, putting two on with one out in the 10th, but Thomas pitched out of trouble.
High Point then nearly ended the game in the 11th. Clare led off with a walk against Thomas and moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Brandenburg was intentionally walked and Jonathan Kelley relieved Thomas. He induced a lineout to left field off the bat of Greene for the second out, and Berkley Hawkins came on to face Angelis.
The HPU cleanup hitter drilled a clean single to center field. Will Malbon, who was making his first start since March 22, charged the ball, fielded it cleanly and fired a one-hop throw to Winn at home. The Keydet catcher applied a sweep tag to the back of the runner Clare for the third out, keeping the VMI hopes alive and retiring the side.
The Keydets had a single baserunner against Maloney in the 13th, having finally gotten Lourey out of the game, and HPU put together another threat in the bottom half. Fortier-Benson led off with a single and moved up on a sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for the top of the Panther order, but Edens retired McDermott and Brandenburg to prolong the contest.
VMI nearly took the lead in the 14th when Tarsovich led off with a single. Geary walked on four pitches and Angus laid down a sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for Mayers, who drew a walk on a 3-1 pitch to load the bases. Walter, however, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Edens danced around trouble once more in the bottom of the 14th, retiring Alex Gross and Manzella with two on to send the contest to the 15th where VMI threatened again. Winn singled with two out and Drew Bryan walked, but Tarsovich grounded back to the mound to retire the side and the game got even more interesting in the bottom of the frame.
Clare singled with one out and McDermott followed with a hard ground ball to first that Walter was unable to play cleanly, resulting in an error and two runners being aboard. That brought McQuaig out of the bullpen and he induced a ground out fielder’s choice for out number two. Greene was intentionally walked to load the bases and bring up Angelis, but the High Point cleanup hitter grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning and set the stage for VMI’s 16th-inning, game-winning rally.
With the win, VMI takes back to back games at High Point for the first time since March of 2010. Tarsovich recorded eight assists in the victory, two shy of the school record, while Geary’s four walks equaled a VMI best that was last accomplished in 2011 by Sam Roberts.
VMI baseball is scheduled to return to action Tuesday, taking on the Richmond Spiders at Pitt Field in Richmond. Action is set to get underway at 3 p.m.