Baseball Pushed Back to Saturday

Due to frigid temperatures and high winds, the opener of this weekend's three-game series between VMI and Lafayette has been pushed back to Saturday.  The schedule currently calls for a doubleheader, beginning at 1 p.m., on Saturday afternoon at Gray-Minor Stadium.  Fans can follow along via live stats for all three games of the weekend.

After opening the season at Prince George HS last weekend, VMI returns to the friendly confines for another date with a top Patriot League foe.  Last weekend, VMI swept the three-game series from Bucknell, the defending co-regular season champs, and this weekend, VMI takes on Lafayette, the tournament runners-up in the Patriot League.

The Leopards saw two of their top three hitters depart from last year’s team, as well as their top starting pitcher.  Returning, however, as top slugger Rob Froio, who led the team with a .367 batting average, a .437 on-base percentage and 45 runs scored last season.  Also back are three of the team’s four weekend starters from a season ago.

While the Leopards will open their 2010 season this weekend, the Keydets enjoyed a strong opening weekend against the Bison.  After falling behind in the first inning of each contest, VMI rallied to open the year 3-0 for the first time since the 1984 season.

VMI and Lafayette last met on the diamond back in 2008, when the Leopards opened the year by taking two of three at Gray-Minor Stadium.  The Keydets own a 10-4 advantage in the all-time series, with each game being played over the past nine years in Lexington.

Game one of the series is slated to pit Leopard junior right-hander Zach Fritz, who went 2-6 with a 5.50 ERA a season ago, against Keydet sophomore righty Adam Lopez, who struck out six and allowed just one earned run in 3.2 innings against Bucknell last weekend.  On Saturday, LC sophomore righty Ethan Perro, who had a 2-3 record with a 5.60 ERA as a freshman, will face Keydet freshman Coby Cowgill.  In the finale, Lafayette is slated to send out senior right-hander Jeremy Atkins, who posted a 4-3 mark and a 4.82 ERA a season ago, to oppose Keydet junior righty Sam Roberts, who scored a win against Bucknell last weekend by surrendering just one run in five innings, striking out four.

The three-game series continues an opening stretch with 14 home games in 15 outings following the indefinite postponement of last week’s trip to Richmond.  Next week’s trip to Maryland (March 2) is still on as scheduled, though winter weather forecast for this weekend may complicate things.

Middle Relief Excels Opening Weekend:
    VMI opened its 2010 campaign with an impressive sweep of Bucknell.  Playing a large role in the team’s success was the standout performances of the Keydet middle relief corps.
    The five Keydets that made middle relief appearances on the weekend combined to allow three runs in 12.1 innings, good enough for a 2.19 ERA, striking out 11 and walking just two.
    Chris Duty and Jeremy Brown each picked up wins in their relief efforts, as Duty worked 3.2 innings while allowing one run in game two after Brown gave up two runs in 3.1 innings in game one.  Travis Thomas, Jason Farley and Andrew Deal each had scoreless efforts in their season debuts, as they combined to allow just one base runner in their 5.1 innings.

Freshmen Bats Pace Keydets Past Bucknell:
    Several freshmen made a lasting impression in their VMI debuts on opening weekend, as VMI swept co-regular season Patriot League Champs Bucknell.
    In a series moved to Prince George HS due to snow and ice at Gray-Minor Stadium, VMI freshmen Cory Spangenberg, Rob Dickinson and Erickson Keeton combined to hit 12 for 22 (.545) with two doubles, four home runs and nine RBIs.
    Spangenberg was 4 for 4 in the opener, collecting two doubles, a home run and three RBIs as VMI won, 9-4.  Also in that game, Keeton went 2 for 2 with two home runs and three RBIs, but injured himself in his second at bat.  He was then replaced by Dickinson, who proceeded to go 3 for 4 with a home run and two runs scored in game two of the series, a 6-5 VMI win.

VMI Earns Preseason Accolades:
    VMI seniors Jordan Ballard and Tanner Biagini and junior Sam Roberts were selected to SEBaseball's Preseason All-Big South squads, as the website unveiled its season preview articles on Sunday.
    Ballard was tabbed a First Team selection at first base, while Biagini was named to the Second Team at third base.  Roberts, meanwhile, was listed as the Second Team Utility player.

Keydets Face Tough Schedule:
    In 2010, VMI is scheduled to face a tough schedule, one that includes two teams that began the season in the top 15 in the national rankings.
    The Keydets are slated to play two games against Virginia, who began the season ranked third nationally after its first appearance in Omaha, and three more against Coastal Carolina, who began the season ranked 12th.  The Cavs and Chants are favored to win the ACC and Big South, respectively, as is James Madison in the CAA.
    In addition, VMI will face two of the top teams in the Patriot League, including defending co-regular season champs Bucknell and tournament runners-up Lafayette.  Also on the slate is The Citadel, picked as high as third in the SoCon last year, in a two-game series that will mark the first match-up against a SoCon foe since VMI left the league prior to the 2003-04 season.