LEXINGTON, Va. – Cameron Walter singled to left field with one out in the ninth, scoring Nick Dwyer with the winning run to push the VMI Keydets past the VCU Rams, 5-4, in non-conference baseball action Saturday at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va. The contest was the middle game of the three-game series between the clubs, was VMI’s second walk-off victory in its past five contests and gave the Keydets their first three-game winning streak ever against VCU.
After VCU (14-14) had tied the game in the eighth, Dwyer led off the VMI (16-18) ninth with a single through the right side. Jordan Tarsovich bunted him over to second, and on a 0-1 pitch, Walter drilled a single into left center, scoring Dwyer easily to give VMI its fourth win in the Keydets’ last five games. Since dropping to 6-14 with a loss March 16 at Radford, the Keydets have won 10 of their last 14 contests to pull within two games of the .500 mark.
John Garrett (2-2) picked up the win in relief, pitching a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts, while Matt Lees (1-3) suffered the loss, giving up one run on three hits in 2 2/3 frames. Offensively, eight of the nine Keydet starters reached base in the win, led by Rob Dickinson’s 2 for 4 night that moved him into sole possession of seventh place on VMI’s all-time hit list. In addition, Matt Winn went 1 for 3 with a home run, and was hit by a pitch to extend his streak of reaching base to 18 consecutive games.
VCU jumped ahead in the opening inning. Campbell Henkel’s first pitch of the game was bounced in front of the plate by Bill Cullen and fielded by Winn, who threw wildly to first base for a two-base error. One batter later, Joey Cujas doubled to center to score Cullen and give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Brent Mikionis then struck out and Henkel also fanned Vimael Machin, but the third strike to Machin got away and allowed the VCU shortstop to reach. Machin then took off for second base, with Winn’s throw bouncing into center field for an error, allowing Cujas to score and Machin to take third. Taylor Buran then had a bunt single down the third base line, scoring Machin and giving the Rams a 3-0 lead.
The Keydets responded in the third, when Drew Bryan led off with a single. An infield out moved him to second, and one out later, Will Connerley singled to left to score Bryan and cut the VCU lead to 3-1. Henkel, meanwhile, settled in, retiring 10 Rams in a row at one point, and Bryan started another VMI rally in the fifth with a walk. Ray Lopez bunted him to second and a fly ball advanced Bryan to third. The sophomore then scored on a passed ball, making it a one-run contest, 3-2.
VMI took its first lead in the sixth, when Winn launched a one-out home run to left center, his second of the year to tie the game, 3-3. Sheldon Shifflett then reached on an error, and one out later, Thomas Stallings walked. Back to back wild pitches then scored Shifflett, giving the Keydets a 4-3 advantage.
The visitors rallied to tie the game in the eighth, when James Bunn had a one-out single against Andrew Montague. Cujas followed with a single of his own, and Mikionis dropped a single to center to score Bunn, knotting the score at 4. Montague, however, induced a 6-4-3 double play ground ball to end the inning with the score still tied.
After the Keydets left a runner at third in the eighth, Garrett retired the side in order in the ninth to set up Walter’s game-winning hit.
Neither starter figured in the decision, with VMI’s Henkel allowing three runs, none of which were earned, in 6 1/3 innings of work. He allowed three hits, only one of which came after the first inning, and struck out a career-high eight against just one walk. Ryan Farrar gave up four runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings for VCU.
VMI baseball will return to action Sunday, as the Keydets go for their first series sweep of the year. First pitch between VMI and VCU is set for 2 p.m.