LEXINGTON, Va. – The VMI Keydets took an early 5-1 lead, scored in the sixth to go ahead for good and saw Andrew Montague record a four-out save to preserve the victory as they defeated the James Madison Dukes, 9-7, in non-conference baseball action Tuesday at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va.
After James Madison (14-13) had rallied to tie the game at 5 in the sixth, Thomas Stallings led off the VMI (14-17) half with a single and moved to second on a passed ball. A sacrifice bunt moved him to third, and one out later, he scored the eventual winning run on a wild pitch. The Keydets added three more runs in the seventh, and Montague recorded the final four outs in a two-run game for his first career save.
Reed Garrett picked up the win in relief, moving to 2-3 after allowing four runs (three earned) in 2 2/3 innings, while Ben Garner took the loss to drop to 0-2. Garner allowed only the sixth inning unearned run in 3 2/3 innings out of the JMU bullpen.
JMU jumped ahead in the first against right-hander T.J. Lighton, when Johnny Bladel led off with a double. Ty McFarland walked, but Lighton retired the next two hitters and then induced a ground ball to shortstop Nick Dwyer. The ball was booted for an error, however, allowing Bladel to score and the Dukes to take a 1-0 lead.
That advantage held up until the third, when the Keydets jumped on Duke starter Michael Church for five runs. Drew Bryan reached on an error to open the inning, and one out later, Jordan Tarsovich walked. Two wild pitches and a stolen base put runners at second and third, and Will Connerley brought Bryan home with a RBI double.
Tarsovich then scored on a RBI single by Rob Dickinson, and the next batter, Sheldon Shifflett, hit a hard ground ball to the left of second baseman Casey Goss. Goss got a glove on it, but the ball trickled into short right field and Shifflett hustled for a two-run double, giving the Keydets a 4-1 lead. After a Red Dowdell single, Garner came out of the bullpen to relieve Church. He was greeted by a Brandon Angus RBI single, scoring Shifflett to make it a 5-1 game.
JMU came right back in the fourth, as Colby Roberts led off the inning with his first home run of the year, a long drive to right field. Bradley Shaban and Goss then had back to back singles, and one out later, Tyler Duke got a run home with a safety squeeze bunt, cutting the Keydet lead to 5-3.
The visitors tied the game in the sixth, when Goss led off with a walk and Tyler Gregory followed with a single. Garrett, who had relieved to start the inning, then appeared to have Goss picked off second, but the runner broke for third and the throw to third was dropped by third baseman Ray Lopez for an error. One out later, Bladel walked to load the bases and McFarland drew a free ticket to get a run home. The next batter, Matt Tenaglia, hit a line drive right back to Garrett, who knocked it down and threw home for a force play, but Cole McInturff then had a infield hit to tie the game, 5-5.
After Stallings scored in the sixth to give the Keydets the lead, VMI added on in the seventh. With one out, Shifflett doubled down the right field line and Matt Winn followed with a RBI double of his own, making it 7-5, VMI. Angus then reached on an error and he moved to second on a wild pitch. A Stallings RBI single then scored Winn, and a Bryan RBI groundout got Angus home to make it a 9-5 contest.
The Dukes mounted a rally in the eighth, when Bladel and McFarland had back to back singles with one out. Tenaglia then doubled to right center to score a run, and McInturff had a sacrifice fly to make it a 9-7 game. After a walk to Roberts, Montague relieved and struck out Shaban to end the inning and quell the final JMU uprising.
Offensively, Dickinson, Shifflett and Stallings had two hits apiece, while Bladel was 2 for 3 with three runs scored for the visitors. Neither starter figured in the decision, as Lighton was removed after 3 2/3 innings, having surrendered three runs (two earned) on five hits, while Church gave up five runs (four earned) in 2 1/3 frames.
VMI baseball will return to action Wednesday, when the Keydets travel to Charlottesville to face the #4 Virginia Cavaliers. Game time is set for 6 p.m.