LEXINGTON, Va. - No. 28 VMI took its first lead with a five-run fifth inning and never looked back, claiming the opening game of this weekend's Big South Conference series over Charleston Southern, 13-3 on Friday night at Gray-Minor Stadium. With the win, the Keydets (19-3, 3-1 Big South) continued their best start in school history, while the loss kept the Bucs (9-14, 0-3 Big South) winless in conference play.
With the game tied at two in the fifth, VMI moved ahead when Sam Roberts' single up the middle plated Jacob Morley. Roberts then scored on a Tanner Biagini single, before Jordan Ballard crushed his Big South-best 10th home run of the year, a three-run shot to put VMI up 7-2. The Keydets tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh and four more in the eighth to improve to 14-1 at home.
Sophomore Adam Lopez (4-0), meanwhile, settled in after falling behind 2-0 in the second. Following a leadoff single in the third inning, the right-hander did not allow another hit until the seventh, retiring 11 in a row as the Keydets built their lead. Lopez improved to 5-0 in his career with the victory, allowing two runs on seven hits through 6.2 innings. His eight strikeouts pushed his Big South-leading total to 44, as he has issued just five walks in his 34.2 innings this year.
Junior Anthony Markham (0-3) suffered the loss, surrendering nine runs on 10 hits in seven frames. He and Lopez locked into a pitcher's duel early, as Markham allowed just two runs through the first four innings, coming on an Alex Haitsuka leadoff home run and a Cory Spangenberg fielder's choice. The Keydets then sent eight men to the plate in the decisive fifth, taking advantage of two walks issued by the righty.
The top of the Keydet offense produced heavily, as Sam Roberts (3 for 4, 2B, 2 SB, 2 RBIs) and Cory Spangenberg (2 for 4, 3B, 3 SB, 3 RBIs) combined for five hits, five stolen bases, five runs scored and five driven in. Jacob Morley went 2 for 2 with a home run, three runs scored and a stolen base, while Graham Sullivan went 3 for 5 with an RBI. The game marked the third straight outing the VMI offense has scored 13 or more runs while having at least eight of the nine starters collect a hit.
"I was really proud of the way Adam Lopez settled down to pitch six and two-thirds innings for us tonight," said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. "He gave up five hits in the first two innings, and really did a nice job of settling in and pitching through the middle innings. Michael Devine and Alan Watts came in and closed it out for us. You've got to hand it to our offense; the top of our lineup had a good day today. Jordan Ballard came up with a big three-run home run in the fifth, and then for our offense to tack on in every inning after that was exciting to see. I was really impressed with our at bats up and down the lineup today."
CSU collected eight hits on the evening, with none going for extra bases. Chinners was the lone Buc with multiple hits, while Tom Burkett drove home two runs with his second-inning single through the right-side of the infield.
VMI continues its Big South series against Charleston Southern on Saturday at 2 p.m. Fans can listen to the game on the VMI Sports Network, available at www.VMIKeydets.com and on Lexington's Fox Sports Radio 1450 AM. The game will also be shown on a live video broadcast on the Big South Network, available at www.BigSouthSports.com.
Keydet Quick Hits
- Jordan Ballard's fifth-inning home run moved the senior into sole possession of third place on VMI's career home runs chart with 33. He also cracked the top 10 in career RBIs, currently with 116. He also ranks second in career slugging percentage (.573) and eighth in total bases (305).
- Cory Spangenberg extended his hitting streak to 18 games, which stands as the longest in the country this season by a freshman.
- Graham Sullivan has hit .453 over the past 15 games, slugging .891.
- Sam Roberts' 35 RBIs surpasses his career-best total from last year, when he had 34.
- VMI has hit a home run in 19 of 21 games this season.
- The win snapped VMI's first two-game losing streak of the year.