LEXINGTON, Va. - Graham Sullivan stroked a line drive to deep right field that chased home Sam Roberts with the winning run as VMI walked off with a 7-6 win over Lafayette on Sunday at Gray-Minor Stadium. The victory completed a weekend sweep for the Keydets, who improved to 6-0 for the first time in school history, while the Leopards fell to 0-3 on the year.
"First of all, with this being the first series of the year here at Gray-Minor Stadium, we had to worry about getting all the snow out of the stadium. I couldn't appreciate more the work that the Physical Plant did to get this stadium ready for the series," said Ikenberry. "Lafayette played a great game today. It was back-and-forth all day, and it was a great college baseball game."
After Tanner Biagini tied the game at six with a seventh-inning home run, both teams had chances to win the game in the ninth. VMI closer Michael Devine (1-0) came on to pitch the ninth and surrendered a one-out single to A.J. Pisarri and a walk to Matt Hall, the third and fourth hitters in the Leopard lineup. Devine then rallied to notch back-to-back strikeouts, blanking the visitors and giving VMI their first walk-off opportunity of the season.
"Our bullpen did a great job today," said Ikenberry. "I can't speak highly enough of Jeremy Brown coming in and putting up zeroes for four innings. Mike Devine followed him up and made some big pitches under pressure. Our bullpen is pretty solid, and having those two guys put up zeroes really helped us out."
Roberts led off the bottom of the ninth with a knock through the right-side of the infield and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cory Spangenberg. Following an intentional walk to Biagini, Lafayette closer Ian Dickson (0-1) struck out Keydet cleanup man Jordan Ballard. Dickson, though, fell behind 2-0 to Sullivan, and the junior made him pay, slugging a deep liner past a sprawling right fielder to set off the Keydet celebration.
"(Graham) Sullivan came up and did a good job of getting to a hitter's count and driving a ball to win the ballgame," said Ikenberry. "The whole weekend was a team effort, and that's what you saw in that ninth inning. Sam led things off with a single and Cory sacrificed him over. They intentionally walked Tanner and made some good pitches to Jordan, but Graham was there and delivered for us."
Biagini led VMI with his 3 for 4 day at the plate, while Sullivan, Jacob Morley and Alex Haitsuka each had a pair of safeties in the win. Sophomore George Piccirilli hit his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the second that gave VMI a short-lived lead. The Leopards were paced by Pisarri's 3 for 4 outing, while Hall and Matt Davila each drove home a pair for the visitors.
The runs came early in game three of a series that saw 40 runs scored in Saturday's doubleheader. The Leopards scored one run in the first inning and two more in the second, with those coming on Davila's two-run double to deep center field. The Keydets rallied in the bottom of the second, as Jacob Morley continued his hot series by plating Sullivan on an infield single. Three batters later, Piccirilli hit an 0-2 pitch out to left field, putting VMI up 4-3.
Lafayette continued their hit parade in the third, tying things up on Adam McMahon's double that tucked inside the left-field line, scoring Pisarri. Roberts, however, was able to escape a jam in the third, leaving the bases loaded with back-to-back strikeouts. He was then lifted after allowing four runs on six hits through three frames, striking out three and walking three.
VMI stole the lead back in the bottom of the third, as Morley again delivered, this time plating Spangenberg with a base knock through the left-side of the infield. The visitors retook the lead in the fourth, however, off of reliever Chris Duty. Froio and Alex Bechta began the inning with singles and Hall delivered the RBI shot two batters later, moving Lafayette up 6-5.
The Keydets chased starting pitcher Jeremy Atkins in the fifth with a pair of singles to lead off the frame. Atkins departed after 4.1 innings, allowing five runs on 10 hits, striking out three. Jeff Snell came on and got the Leopards out of the inning, leaving the bases loaded in a one-run game.
VMI reliever Jeremy Brown retired the Leopards in order in the fifth, and after allowing base runners in the sixth and seventh innings, had his backstop, Alex Haitsuka, throw out a pair of runners at second base. Biagini then led off the seventh with his third home run of the season, and neither team put a runner in scoring position until the ninth.
Brown wrapped up his day by working four scoreless innings, scattering three hits while striking out four in his career-long relief effort. For the weekend, Morley hit .778 (7 for 9) with eight RBIs, while Biagini hit .583 and Roberts drove in seven home runs.
The Keydets return to action Tuesday afternoon, traveling to College Park, Md. to take on Maryland at 4 p.m.