SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Jordan Ballard hit two home runs to tie Greg Weddle for the most in school history as No. 29 VMI defeated Gardner-Webb, 13-6, in Big South Conference action Saturday afternoon at Harley Park. The win gives VMI (27-5, 9-2 Big South) its eighth-straight weekend series win to open the season, while Gardner-Webb (15-15, 5-3 Big South) was dealt its third-straight loss following a six-game win streak.
Ballard (Troy, Va./Monticello) hit a two-run homer as part of a four-run outburst in the first inning and another in the seventh for his 37th career home run, tying the mark Weddle established in 1986. The round-tripper was also VMI's 57th of the year, breaking the school's single-season mark set in 1985.
Ballard drove in five runs while going 2 for 3 in the game, while Cory Spangenberg continued his sizzling series, going 2 for 4 with three RBIs, three runs scored and his second triple in as many days. Rob Dickinson was 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI, while Justin Topping hit a home run for the second straight day.
"I was really proud of our offense early on putting up a four-spot, but then we gave them three runs in the first and that can't happen," said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. "We made two errors, which is uncharacteristic of us. I was glad to see the way our guys fought back and added runs throughout the game. We had a couple of big innings late in the game. Cory and Jordan did a great job at the top of our lineup, and Jacob Morley had a big day. Justin Topping has had a great weekend, and that's good to see out of the designated hitter role.
Sophomore Adam Lopez (5-0) went five-plus innings to earn the win on the mound. He was tagged for four runs on six hits, but just one of the tallies was earned, as VMI committed two early errors and a passed ball. Chris Duty relieved Lopez in the sixth and retired the Bulldogs in order, but ran into problems in the seventh, allowing two runs on four hits. Alan Watts then recorded the final seven outs, allowing just a leadoff walk in the ninth.
"Adam Lopez did a good job of coming back after being able to last only one inning last weekend," said Ikenberry. "He settled in after the first, but his pitch count got up there in the middle innings, so we had to go get him. Chris Duty got out of a jam in the sixth, and Alan Watts came in and finished out the ballgame for us, putting up zeroes in the final two innings."
Michael Hanzlik (2-2) took the loss for GWU, allowing seven runs on nine hits in 3.1 innings. Brandon Boling and Kyle Paeplow each allowed three runs, one earned, in relief, while Matt Liedberg worked a scoreless ninth. Aaron Miller and Jake Watts each had three hits and two runs scored from the top of the lineup, while Ty Boyles drove in a pair for the Bulldogs.
VMI took a 4-0 lead in the first when Spangenberg's triple plated Sam Roberts before Ballard and Topping both went deep. GWU fought back with three in the bottom of the inning with some help from the VMI defense. With runners at first and second, an infield pop-up from Kurt Fulginiti fell safely, allowing Miller to score. Fulginiti then scored on a Boyles double, before Adam McFarland hit a first-pitch single through the right-side to plate Boyles. GWU tied the game in the third, as Jake Watts hit a leadoff double and scored on a passed ball.
For the second day in a row, VMI took the lead for good in the fourth. A consistent, three-run rally came together as Jacob Morley ripped an RBI double to left-center field, Roberts hit a run-scoring single and Spangenberg netted a sacrifice fly.
Leading 7-4 going to the seventh, VMI doubled the margin with another three-run inning. Following a bunt single from Spangenberg, Ballard connected for his historic homer, before Tanner Biagini reached on an error and scored on Dickinson's double.
As they had all weekend, GWU answered immediately. Duty surrendered back-to-back doubles to open the inning, with Watts plating Miller. After getting the next two batters to ground out, Duty allowed an RBI single to Boyles and another knock to McFarland, bringing Watts into the game. The sophomore got a fly out from Zeke Blanton to end the threat, and GWU was silenced for the rest of the afternoon.
VMI tacked on three more in the eighth, as Spangenberg hit an RBI single, followed by sacrifice flies from Ballard and Biagini. The 13 runs scored by VMI marks the 11th time VMI has scored at least that many in 2010.
VMI goes for its second-straight Big South series sweep Sunday, with first pitch set for 2 p.m. 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
- VMI has a home run in 27 of its 32 games in 2010.
- The Keydets are 20-2 when scoring at least seven runs this season.
- VMI has hit 57 home runs on the season and surrendered just eight.
- In 11 Big South games, Jordan Ballard is hitting .444 with six doubles, six home runs, 19 RBIs and a .978 slugging percentage. He also has hits in 10 of the 11 games, as does Graham Sullivan.
- Ballard's 14 home runs this season also ties him for the second-most in a single season in program history.