LEXINGTON, Va. - Jordan Tarsovich was on base four times, including the go-ahead double, Nick Dwyer had his third multi-hit game of the season and Drew Bryan added a crucial eighth-inning RBI single to back a solid effort by the VMI Keydet pitching staff, en route to a 6-4 win over the Buffalo Bulls Saturday at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va.
The game was the home opener for the Keydets (1-4), and marked the second game of this weekend's round robin tournament after Buffalo (2-3) had defeated Maryland-Eastern Shore 9-6 earlier in the day. The victory moves the Keydets to 10-0 in home openers under head coach Marlin Ikenberry.
After the Keydets took a 5-4 lead into the eighth inning, Cody Holder, who was playing in his first game of the season, legged out a double down the right-field line. Matt Winn laid down a bunt to get pinch-runner Gary LeClair to third base, and Bryan followed with a single up the middle on a 1-1 pitch to plate the crucial insurance run. Buffalo third baseman Mike Scarcello was then robbed of a leadoff hit in the ninth, thanks to dazzling bunt defense by third baseman Ray Lopez, helping prevent the tying run from coming to the plate and sending the Keydets on to victory.
With his four times on base, two coming via extra-base hits and two via walks, Tarsovich has now reached base 14 times in his first 23 plate appearances, good for a startling .625 on-base percentage. He has walked eight times and been retired just nine so far this season. Dwyer, meanwhile, is hitting .526 with a team-high 10 hits through the first five contests.
The Keydets fell behind early in Saturday's game. After a scoreless first inning, Alex Baldock led off the second with a solo home run off Reed Garrett, putting Buffalo up, 1-0. That lead grew to two moments later, when a Jon Mestas single plated Scarcello, but the Bulls left the bases loaded when Jason Kanzler grounded into a fielder's choice.
The visitors wriggled off the hook in the fourth, helped by a very strange inning. After Dwyer walked on four pitches to lead off the inning, he was forced at second after a Brandon Angus bunt. Angus then went to second on a balk, and Will Connerley followed with a single that did not score the runner. VMI then, with runners on the corners, tried to bunt Angus home, but a Berkley Hawkins try did not score the run and Matt Winn flew out to end the inning.
Buffalo then added on in the fifth with two out, when Thomas Richards hit a hard ground ball to first base. The ball glanced off Hawkins' glove and rolled down the right field line for an error, allowing Mestas to score an unearned run and make it 3-0, UB.
The Keydets got back in the game in the fifth, starting with Tarsovich's one-out walk. He then moved to second on a balk, and Lopez drove a single into right center to score Tarsovich and make it a 3-1 game. One out later, Dwyer singled to center to score Lopez and pull the Keydets within a run, 3-2.
VMI then took the lead for good in the sixth, again starting with a one-out walk. This time, it was Holder who drew the free pass. Winn was then hit by a pitch from reliever Tyler Wilson, and pinch-hitter Red Dowdell followed with a single to load the bases. Tarsovich then drilled a 2-0 pitch down the left field line for a two-run double, giving VMI its first lead of the night, one they would not relinquish. Lopez added a sacrifice fly later in the inning to push the margin to 5-3, Keydets.
That advantage was cut to one, however, when Kanzler went deep for the second time on the day, blasting a home run in the seventh to make it a 5-4 contest. That set the stage for the eighth-inning rally and the key insurance run, while Keydet closer John Garrett cruised through two perfect innings for his first save.
Reed Garrett (1-0) got the win for the Keydets with VMI's first quality start of the year, going six innings and allowing three runs (two earned). He struck out a career-high eight and walked only one. Wilson dropped to 0-1 with the loss, while Bulls' starter Mike McGee went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs.
"We really grinded this one out," said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. "I thought Reed threw well, and our bullpen did a nice job. Drew's hit in the eighth inning was big to give John some room to work with. A tip of the cap goes to Buffalo, Mike McGee did a good job for them and kept our guys off balance. We will need to get better with our offensive execution, but that will come with the more games we play. I was proud of the way we competed and stayed in this game, it was a great team effort and this sort of effort and contribution from everyone will help us win games this season."
The Keydets return to action on Sunday, as the weekend's round-robin tournament continues. The Keydets will take on Buffalo at 12:30 p.m., and will face Maryland-Eastern Shore at 4 p.m.
VMI 6, Buffalo 4 (Feb. 23, 2013 at Lexington, Va.)
Buffalo 020 010 100 - 4 6 1 (2-3)
VMI 000 023 01X - 6 11 1 (1-4)
BUFFALO - McGee; Wilson (6); McWilliams (6) and Brennan.
VMI - R. Garrett; Montague (7); J. Garrett (8) and Winn.
W- R. Garrett (1-0) S - J. Garrett (1) L - Wilson (0-1) T- 2:22 A-204
HR BUFFALO - Kanzler (2); Baldock (1)