LEXINGTON, Va. – Connor Bach pitched into the eighth inning and Matt Winn continued his torrid hitting by going 3 for 3 with two runs scored, leading the VMI Keydets over the VCU Rams, 6-2, in non-conference baseball action Friday night at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va. The game was the opener of the first weekend series ever contested between the teams.
Friday’s contest was never truly in doubt, as the Keydets (15-18) jumped on VCU (14-13) starter Heath Dwyer for five runs in the third inning, including a three-run home run by Rob Dickinson, his fifth long ball of the year. That was all Bach would need, as the Rams could muster only two runs in the fifth inning against the junior left-hander. A Winn single would spark a two-out VMI rally in the bottom of the inning, leading to an insurance run that accounted for the final score, 6-2.
Bach’s seven innings of work saw him allow just two runs, both of which were earned, on five hits and a single walk. He struck out five in moving to 2-2 on the year. Dwyer took the loss to drop to 4-4, as he went the whole way for the visitors and allowed all six runs, doing so on eight hits and three free passes. Dwyer struck out seven.
Offensively, Winn’s 3 for 3 night included his 10th double and extended his streak of reaching base to 17 straight games. Over the last 10 games, the Keydet catcher is hitting a startling .483 with six doubles and an on-base percentage of .583.
The Keydets had the game’s first threat in the second inning, when Winn led off with a double. Sheldon Shifflett bunted him to third, but Brandon Angus followed with a high chopper to third. Joey Cujas fielded the ball cleanly and threw home in time to easily retire Winn for the second out. Angus made it to second on a subsequent balk, but Thomas Stallings struck out to end the inning.
VCU got a man to second with one out in the third, but could not get him home and the Keydets struck in the bottom half. With one out, Ray Lopez tripled into the right field corner and Jordan Tarsovich walked. Will Connerley then hit a high chopper deep in the shortstop hole that went for an infield single, scoring Lopez, and Dickinson followed by drilling a 0-1 pitch over the right field wall for a three-run home run, giving the Keydets a 4-0 lead. Winn then singled, and one out later, Angus hit a hard ground ball into right field for a RBI single, scoring Winn and making it a 5-0 contest.
VCU again got a man into scoring position with one out in the fourth, but could not score him as Bach held the Rams without a hit over the first four frames. Jordan Weymouth broke up the no-hitter to lead off the fifth, and one out later, Nick Octavi singled. Bill Cullen flied out, but James Bunn hammered a two-out double into the left center field gap, scoring both runners and cutting the Keydet margin to 5-2.
VMI got one of those runs back in the bottom half, when Winn singled with two outs. Shifflett followed with a single, and Dwyer promptly uncorked consecutive wild pitches, allowing Winn to score and the Keydets to increase their lead to 6-2.
Dwyer would not allow a hit the rest of the way, but Bach and two relievers held the VCU offense at bay and got help from VMI defense as well. The Keydet starter allowed a single to lead off the eighth, which ended his night and brought on Reed Garrett, who induced a two-hopper to Stallings’ backhand side at third base. Stallings started a 5-4-3 double play with a quick backhand grab and throw to second baseman Drew Bryan, who snagged the low toss and completed the turn for the twin killing.
John Garrett came in to pitch the ninth, and after a leadoff infield hit, got a ground ball to first baseman Cameron Walter. Walter stepped on first and threw a strike to second base, where shortstop Nick Dwyer put the tag down for the unconventional double play that would quell VCU’s final hopes of a rally.
In addition to Winn, the Keydets got three RBI from Dickinson on his home run, a hit that tied him with Jacob Morley ’12 for seventh on VMI’s all-time hit list. With the victory, the Keydets have beaten all but four of the Division I baseball programs in Virginia this year - Liberty, Old Dominion, George Mason and Virginia - and still have games with Liberty and Old Dominion remaining on their schedule.
Bunn and Brent Mikionis had two hits apiece for VCU.
VMI baseball will return to action Saturday, as the Keydets and VCU tangle in game two of their series. Game time is set for 4 p.m.