LEXINGTON, Va. – The VMI Keydets jumped out to a 8-1 lead, rallied late to force extra innings and then saw a dropped fly ball by Coastal Carolina Chanticleer outfielder Alex Buccilli allow the winning run to score in the 10th inning as the Keydets prevailed, 10-9, in a back and forth battle Saturday at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va. The game was the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader and marked the 250th career victory for VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry.
After VMI (13-17, 4-5 Big South) had tied the game in the ninth off Coastal Carolina (15-12, 4-2 BSC) closer Ryan Connolly, Rob Dickinson walked with one out in the 10th. Matt Winn was then hit by a pitch, and one out later, Nick Dwyer hit an arching line drive toward Buccilli in left. The Coastal outfielder appeared to have a bead on it, about shoulder-high coming toward the line, but saw it go in and out of his glove for an error. Dickinson, running on contact with two outs, scored easily to give the Keydets their first victory over the Chanticleers since April 26, 2008.
Andrew Woods (2-0) picked up the victory in relief, as he went 2 1/3 sparkling innings, allowing just one hit and striking out one, while Connolly took the loss to fall to 1-3. The Keydets got to the Coastal closer to two runs, one of which was earned, on five hits and a walk.
Offensively, VMI’s 16-hit attack was led by Dickinson, who was 4 for 5 and surpassed David Groseclose ’95 for 10th on the all-time Keydet hit chart. Dwyer chipped in a 3 for 6 night, while Shifflett was 2 for 6 with three runs driven in.
The Chanticleers scored in the first inning, going ahead 1-0 on a Buccilli two-out single, but the Keydets exploded in the second against starting pitcher Tyler Poole. Winn led off with a double and Shifflett followed with a two-bagger of his own, plating the Keydet catcher to tie the game, 1-1. Dwyer then had a bunt single to third, but in trying to retire Dwyer, Coastal third baseman Zach Remillard threw wildly to first, allowing Shifflett to score and Dwyer to go all the way to third.
Brandon Angus then plated Dwyer with a sacrifice fly, making it 3-1, and Cody Holder walked. Drew Bryan followed with a hit and run single, putting runners at the corners with only one out. Poole then tried to pick Bryan off first, but the throw bounced off the glove of Coastal first baseman Connor Owings for an error, allowing Holder to score and Bryan to advance. One out later, Ray Lopez walked and Dickinson singled home a run for a 5-1 lead, ending Poole’s night and bringing Aaron Burke out of the bullpen. One batter later, Shifflett plated two more runs with a single to center, capping the uprising and giving the Keydets a 7-1 lead.
That advantage grew to 8-1 in the sixth, when Jordan Tarsovich walked with one out. After a fly out, he stole second and scored on Dickinson’s RBI single to right, pushing the Keydet margin to seven.
The Coastal comeback began in the seventh against Jeremy Brown, who had allowed just two hits since the first inning. With one out, Zach Remillard homered to left field for his first career long ball, a solo shot to cut the Keydet lead to 8-2.
Chanticleer right-hander Austin Kerr pitched around a Dwyer leadoff double in the VMI seventh, and John Garrett relieved Brown to start the eighth. Anthony Marks greeted him with a leadoff single, and Luke Willis bounced a seeing-eye single to right to put two on. Buccilli then fisted a looper into very shallow left field for Coastal’s third straight hit, loading the bases with no outs, and Justin Creel walked to force in a run. Owings grounded out to plate another, making it an 8-4 game, and Zach Remillard lofted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Buccilli and making it a three-run contest.
The next batter, Josh Powell, drove a fly ball to right, in front of Angus and toward the line. The Keydet right fielder tried to make a diving catch, could not and the ball skimmed past him for a two-out, RBI triple and an 8-6 Keydet lead. Chris Suseck then dribbled a grounder 25 feet up the third base line. Garrett came off the mound, fielded and threw to first, but Suseck beat the play and Powell broke for the plate on Garrett’s throw. Cody Holder threw back to the plate quickly, but a missed tag at the plate allowed Powell to cross safely, cutting the Keydet lead to one and ending Garrett’s night.
Andrew Montague relieved, and one batter into his outing, induced a slow roller to third base. Ray Lopez fielded the ball and raced to the third base bag, looking for the inning-ending force play, but the runner Suseck was called safe on a very close play, loading the bases. Willis then walked to plate another run and tie the game, and Buccilli followed with a three-hopper to the left of Keydet second baseman Bryan. The ball was fielded cleanly, but no one covered first base and Buccilli reached safely, allowing the go-ahead run to score and Coastal to take a 9-8 lead into the eighth.
Connolly came on in relief for the bottom of the inning, and Lopez looped a one-out single to center. Dickinson followed with a single through the right side, putting two on, but Winn fouled out and Shifflett struck out swinging.
The Keydets finally got to Connolly in the 9th, when Dwyer led off with a single. Angus bunted him to second base and Cody Holder had an infield hit, putting runners at the corners. Pinch-hitter Red Dowdell then tied the score, 9-9, with a sacrifice fly. The next batter, Jordan Tarsovich, hit a hard ground ball in the hole between first and second, but the ball hit pinch-runner Brandon Diamond, retiring the runner and ending the inning.
Woods, who had come on in relief in the 8th, came back out for the 10th and gave up a one-out single to Ted Blackman. The next batter, Anthony Marks, flew out to left field with the runner going, and Tarsovich made a sprinting catch along the foul line. The Keydet outfielder then threw to first, trying to double off Blackman, but the long throw got away from first baseman Will Connerley. In the chaos of trying to return to first, however, Blackman failed to touch second base on his way back to the bag. Connerley lobbed the ball to Dwyer standing on second base for the out, resulting in a unique 7-2-3-6 putout to end the Coastal 10th and set up VMI’s first walk-off victory since April 21 of last season.
Neither starter figured in the decision, as Poole lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs, four of which were earned. Jeremy Brown received a hard-luck no-decision, as he was strong for seven full frames, giving up just two runs on six hits. He struck out four and did not issue a walk.
“I am extremely proud of the way our guys fought back after they took the lead,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “I hated the no-decision for Jeremy Brown, he threw the ball really well today, but our guys battled all day and I’m glad we got this win.”
The VMI win pushed the Keydets to 4-0 in the finales of doubleheaders this season, while Buccilli went 4 for 5 to lead the visitors at the plate.
VMI baseball will return to action Tuesday, as the Keydets play host to the James Madison Dukes at Gray-Minor Stadium. Game time is set for 6 p.m.