LEXINGTON, Va. - George Piccirilli hit a tie-breaking three-run home run in the fourth, and VMI survived a late rally by the Bucknell Bison to prevail 6-5 in non-conference baseball action Friday at Gray-Minor Stadium.
After Bucknell had rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to tie the game, Piccirilli hit a 2-2 pitch, the seventh of the at-bat, over the left field wall for his second career home run, giving VMI a 6-3 advantage. It would stay that way until the ninth, when two singles, a walk, a wild pitch and a throwing error allowed the Bison to plate two runs. Michael Devine, however, struck out the final two hitters with the tying run on first, earning his third save of the year.
Campbell Henkel earned the win in relief for VMI (5-5-1), moving to 2-0 on the season as he pitched three innings, allowing two runs (one earned), while Trey Frahler took the loss for Bucknell (2-6) and fell to 0-3.
Adam Lopez took the mound for VMI to start the game on the cool, clear day, and worked around his own throwing error to pitch a scoreless first inning. The Keydets jumped on Frahler in the home half, as Sam Roberts hit a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall for his first home run, extending his hitting streak to eight games and putting VMI up, 1-0.
Jacob Morley and Chase Worthington added RBI singles to extend that lead to 3-0 as Lopez went back to the mound. After giving up a leadoff home run and seeing a runner reach via error, Lopez was visited by head coach Marlin Ikenberry and several other members of the Keydets. The junior threw a warm-up pitch, but left the game shortly thereafter for undisclosed reasons, and was relieved by Henkel.
The freshman gave up an RBI single in the third, and saw a run score via a dropped fly ball in the fourth, tying the game at 3-3. In the bottom half, Brooks Martin led off with a single and Jordan Tarsovich moved him up with a sacrifice bunt. Roberts walked on four pitches, setting the stage for Piccirilli's home run. The junior is now hitting .438 on the year with a team-high 11 RBI.
Travis Thomas relieved Henkel in the fifth, and worked three scoreless innings, allowing just two singles. John Garrett worked around a leadoff double in the eighth, and the game headed to the ninth with VMI still leading, 6-3.
Gerald Runyan led off with a single against Michael Devine, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. On a bizarre play, Doug Shribman followed with a walk, but ball four was thrown out of the reach of VMI catcher Alex Haitsuka and went to the backstop. Runyan attempted to advance to third, and after retrieving the ball, Haitsuka threw high and wide to third base, allowing Runyan to score and Shribman to advance to second.
One out later, David Duffett lined a single to center, plating Shribman and cutting the lead to 6-5. Devine then struck the next hitter out on three pitches, before winning an eight-pitch battle with Colby Vanderbeck and closing out his 10th career save.
The VMI offense was led by Piccirilli, who was 2 for 4 and is now slugging a team high .594%. Roberts went 1 for 2 with two walks and two runs scored, while Morley was also 2 for 4 and made an over-the-shoulder catch in right field.
Vanderbeck was 3 for 5 for Bucknell, while Duffett and Runyan added two hits apiece.
VMI will return to the diamond Saturday, as the Keydets return to Gray-Minor Stadium to host Bucknell in the continuation of the four-game series. Game time for Saturday's doubleheader has been moved to noon.