LEXINGTON, Va. - Red Dowdell hit a grand slam, one of VMI's four home runs, and was on base in all five of his plate appearances to pace the VMI Keydets to a 17-6 win over the Norfolk State Spartans in non-conference baseball action Tuesday at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va.
The game was a blowout early, as the Keydets struck for seven runs and an 8-0 lead in the second inning. Back to back home runs by Will Connerley and Rob Dickinson fueled the explosion, and were VMI's first back to back shots since April of 2010. VMI then blew the game open in the third, scoring six more runs, the final four of which came on Dowdell's grand slam, a shot to right field that was his first collegiate home run. Dowdell's blast was VMI's first grand slam since May 16, 2010, when Alex Haitsuka hit one at Winthrop.
In the win, VMI matched its season-high for runs and fell just one shy of its 2013 best in the hit department, as the Keydets pounded out 18 hits Tuesday. Dowdell, Dickinson and Jordan Tarsovich all had three, while four others chipped in a pair of hits. The four home runs - hit by Connerley, Dickinson, Brandon Angus and Dowdell - were the most long balls the Keydets had hit in a game since blasting a quartet of homers on April 6, 2010 against Longwood.
On the mound, Lucas Cash (1-0) picked up the win in his first collegiate start. Cash went 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out four. Jay Dee Johnson took the loss for NSU, dropping to 0-1 by giving up eight runs in just two innings.
"I was very proud of Lucas Cash in his first collegiate appearance today," said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. "He did a great job throwing strikes and competing. Our offense did a solid job of jumping on Norfolk State early, and then extending the lead late in the game. More importantly, I was happy with our defensive effort in the extremely windy conditions we played in today. It was a good game to get a lot of guys work, and I was happy with our focus after two rain days."
With the winds whipping around Gray-Minor Stadium, gusting well over twenty miles per hour and often blowing out to center field, the Keydets struck in the first. Tarsovich led off with a double to center, but was thrown out at the plate on Will Connerley's single that followed. Connerley advanced to second on the throw home, however, and would score on a balk one batter later, giving VMI a 1-0 lead.
That margin ballooned in the second. Dowdell led off with a walk, and Sheldon Shifflett drew a free pass as well. Angus then Angus reached when his bunt attempt was not fielded in front of the mound, loading the bases. One out later, Drew Bryan singled home Shifflett and Tarsovich followed with a two-run single of his own for a 4-0 VMI lead. Connerley, the next batter, then hit a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall for a three-run home run, his first collegiate long ball, upping the Keydet advantage to 7-0. Dickinson then hit a high, arcing drive off the roof of the batting cages beyond the right-center field wall, giving the home team an 8-0 cushion.
That lead grew even more in the third, as Angus led off with his second home run in three games, a shot off the left field scoreboard. Lopez then followed with a single, and advanced to third on a hit by Bryan, who was retired trying to advance to second. Tarsovich drove home Lopez with a single, and one out later, Dickinson had an infield hit. Nick Dwyer then walked, setting the stage for Dowdell's grand slam, which came on a 0-1 pitch.
Lopez had a sacrifice fly in the fourth, making it 15-0 Keydets, before Norfolk State got to Cash in the fifth. The freshman right-hander, making his first start since having Tommy John elbow surgery 18 months prior, did not allow a hit until Tyon Ore doubled to begin the fifth. Two batters later, Robert Depp singled home a run and Robert Barefoot had an infield hit. Mikey Bruno then walked to force in a second run, ending Cash's day and bringing Jonathan Kelley out of the bullpen. Two of the inherited runners scored, making it 15-4 and accounting for Cash's final line.
The Spartans added two against Kelley in the sixth, doing so on a Barefoot infield hit and a Bruno fielder's choice, cutting the deficit to nine before the Keydets opened it back up. A RBI double by Lopez in the bottom of the sixth and Dickinson's seventh-inning RBI single wrapped up the scoring, as the Keydet bullpen allowed just two hits over its final four innings of work.
With his three hits, Tarsovich extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
VMI baseball will return to action Wednesday, taking on the Richmond Spiders at Gray-Minor Stadium. Game time is set for 4 p.m.