LEXINGTON, Va. - VMI pitchers combined to strike out 14 batters, and the Keydets took the lead for good with a two-out rally in the fifth inning en route to a 5-3 win over the Binghamton Bearcats Friday evening at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va.
With two outs in the fifth, Justin Hess ignited the game-turning rally with a single up the middle. Sam Roberts followed with an infield hit, and George Piccirilli drove both of them home with a double down the left-field line, tying the game at 3. Graham Sullivan followed with an RBI single to put the Keydets ahead for good, and VMI added a run in the seventh to account for the final margin.
VMI starter Adam Lopez (1-1) held the lead, as he went six innings and surrendered three runs, two earned, while striking out nine and walking just one. Travis Thomas and John Garrett pitched perfect seventh and eighth innings, combining for three strikeouts, while Michael Devine whiffed two en route to his second save. The three Keydet relievers allowed just one baserunner in their three frames of work.
"I thought Lopez did a nice job settling in, after giving up two runs in the first," said VMI (2-4) head coach Marlin Ikenberry. "I was proud of our adjustments offensively in the middle innings. Their starting pitcher kept us off balance, but our mature lineup made the needed adjustments in the middle third of the game. Also, it was good to get our three relievers back on the mound quickly, and I thought all three did a nice job coming out of the bullpen."
Binghamton (0-1) jumped ahead in the first against Lopez. With two outs, Dave Ciocchi singled up the middle on a 3-2 pitch. Corey Taylor then hit a fastball over the left field wall, putting the visiting Bearcats up 2-0.
VMI came back in the bottom half, when Roberts led off with a single. Piccirilli followed with a bunt attempt, which was fielded by Bearcat starter James Giulietti, who threw wildly to first. The miscue put runners on the corners, and Piccirilli proceeded to steal second. Sullivan then plated Roberts with a groundball, cutting the Binghamton lead to 2-1.
Lopez struck out the side in the second inning, but VMI went meekly as well, going down 1-2-3 on three ground balls. The Bearcats struck again in the third, when Peter Bregartner singled to right. The ball eluded right fielder Jacob Morley on the wet grass for a two-base error, and C.J. Lukaszewski followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1, Bearcats.
VMI had a runner in scoring position in the fourth, but could not score, and Binghamton faced the same scenario in the fifth, coming up empty as well. That set the stage for the Keydet rally in the bottom half, and Lopez retired the side in order in his final inning of work, preserving the 4-3 advantage.
Hess was the igniter once again in the seventh, as the Keydets added an insurance run. The second baseman doubled to right to start the inning, and went to third on a ball in the dirt. Roberts followed with an RBI single, plating Hess and making it 5-3, VMI. Garrett then struck out two batters in the eighth, and after a leadoff walk, Devine followed suit in the ninth for the save, closing out the Keydet victory.
The VMI offense was paced by Hess and Roberts, who each had three hits. Piccirilli had two sacrifice bunts and drove in two runs, while Sullivan had two RBI as well. Binghamton was led by Ciocchi, who went 2 for 4 in the loss.
VMI will return to action Saturday, as the Keydets continue the weekend series with Binghamton by facing the Bearcats in a double-header. Game one has been moved to a 1 p.m. start.