SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Cory Spangenberg hit two home runs and Michael Devine closed out his fourth save in a week as No. 29 VMI took the series opener from Gardner-Webb, 7-5, in Big South Conference baseball action Friday night at Harley Park. The win continues the Keydets' best start in program history at 26-5 overall and 8-2 in the conference, while the Bulldogs fall to 15-14 on the year and 5-2 in league play.
Spangenberg's second home run in as many at bats gave VMI the lead in the fourth inning, and despite several opportunities for GWU, the Bulldogs could never pull even. Their best chance came in the eighth, when Josh Drewery led off with a single, then scored on Ty Boyles' left field-double. That cut the margin to 6-5, and a base knock by Jake Watts moved the tying run to third base with no outs. Devine entered and retired the Bulldogs in order, getting a strikeout and a pair of flyouts to end the threat.
Spangenberg then led off the ninth with a triple that tucked just inside of the right-field line, then scored on Jordan Ballard's sacrifice fly. Devine, despite hitting the leadoff hitter in the ninth, worked a scoreless inning to lock up his seventh save of the year.
"I was really pleased with how we expanded the lead late tonight," said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. "We got a big at bat from Justin Topping to give us that home run in the eighth, then Cory led off the ninth with a triple and came in to score. Our bullpen did an unbelievable job tonight of finishing the ballgame. John Garrett got us out of the seventh, and what a performance by Mike Devine to get six big outs."
Spangenberg led the VMI offense, going 3 for 4 with two home runs, a triple and four runs scored. Justin Topping slugged his first home run of the season, driving in two, while Jordan Ballard also plated a pair for the Keydets, who have not lost a series opener this season.
Keydet starter Jason Farley (4-1) earned the win, allowing four runs, two earned, on eight hits through 6.1 innings. The loss was suffered by GWU starter Conner Scarborough (0-4), who allowed three runs on three hits in 3.2 innings. Brett Stackhouse went the rest of the way, surrendering four runs on nine hits while working 5.1 frames.
"I can't say enough about Cory Spangenberg's day, he really set the tone for us," said Ikenberry. "I thought Jason Farley did a great job today too, getting the start on Friday night. All in all, it was exactly what you expect on Friday night in this conference; a good, hard-fought game."
Each Bulldog in the starting lineup had a hit in the contest, with only Boyles (2 for 4, double, RBI) and Matt Sapp (2 for 2, double) collecting more than one. Aaron Miller drove in three of the five runs and scored another after his two-run double in the sixth.
Spangenberg opened the game's scoring with a solo blast in the first down the right-field line. GWU got that run back in the bottom of the first, when Daniel Merck led off with a triple and scored on Miller's groundout. Just as he did in the first, Spangenberg hit the first pitch he saw out down the right-field line again, becoming the first Keydet to homer in back-to-back at bats since Sam Roberts did so on March 6.
VMI tacked on another run in the fourth, when Tanner Biagini hit a two-out double, then scored on Topping's safety into left field. Two more came across in the fifth, as Sam Roberts and Spangenberg drew back-to-back walks and scored on a Ballard double and a Graham Sullivan single, respectively.
Trailing 5-1, GWU rallied for three runs in the sixth. Sapp opened the inning with a base knock, before Merck's probable double-play ball was booted at second base by Spangenberg. That opened the door, as Miller followed with his triple down the right field-line, scoring both runners. He then scooted home on a passed ball, but Farley stopped the bleeding to leave two men stranded in the lengthy inning.
VMI netted a key insurance run in the eighth, when Topping opened the inning with his home run down the left field line, giving the Keydets a 6-4 cushion. GWU immediately answered off of John Garrett, forcing Devine into the contest to slam the door.
Game two of the Big South series is set for 2 p.m. tomorrow afternoon at Harley Park. The contest will be broadcast on the VMI Sports Network, as fans can listen online at www.VMIKeydets.com, or locally in Lexington on Fox Sports Radio 1450 AM.
Keydet Quick Hits
- Justin Topping became the 14th different Keydet to hit a home run this season. VMI has a home run in 26 of its 31 games in 2010, and needs three more round-trippers to break the school record for single-season home runs.
- VMI has hit 54 home runs on the season and surrendered just eight.
- VMI is 10-2 in games decided by two runs or less this season.
- The Keydets are 19-2 when scoring at least seven runs and are 22-1 when opponents score five runs or less.