LEXINGTON, Va. – Red Dowdell broke out of a 1 for 17 slump in a big way, going 2 for 4 with a home run, and the VMI Keydet bullpen quelled numerous rallies over the final 3 1/3 innings to send their squad to a 4-2 victory over the Binghamton Bearcats, in non-conference baseball action Saturday at Gray-Minor Stadium. The win gave the Keydets (8-5) a split of Saturday’s doubleheader between the clubs, as BU (4-8) had taken game one 10-2.
Binghamton took the early 2-0 lead, scoring twice in the first inning against Connor Bach, but the Keydets scored twice in the fourth, helped by Dowdell’s solo home run off the batting cage structure beyond the right-center field fence.
The Keydets then took the lead for good in the seventh, when Dowdell led off the inning with a double. Will Connerley tried to bunt him to third, but pitcher Jake Cryts threw the ball away down the right field line, allowing Dowdell to score and Connerley to reach second base. One out later, Matt Winn drove home Connerley with a sacrifice fly to account for the game’s final margin.
Bach got no decision after allowing two runs over 5 2/3 innings. He walked six and struck out five, but settled down admirably after a rocky first inning that saw him walk two, commit a throwing error and go to four three-ball counts on the first seven batters. Berkley Hawkins (1-0) notched his first career win, going 2/3 of an inning, while Travis Thomas pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his third save.
Cryts (1-2) took the loss and was charged with four runs, three earned, on five hits over 6 2/3 frames.
Offensively, Dowdell led the way with his big night while Connerley chipped in a 1 for 2 and two runs scored ballgame in his return to the starting lineup. Binghamton was led by John Howell, who went 2 for 5.
BU jumped out to the early 2-0 lead against Bach, as with one out, Bill Bereszniewicz singled and went to second on a wild pickoff throw. He then moved to third on a wild pitch and the next two hitters drew walks. Reed Gamache followed with a two-run double, opening the scoring at 2-0, BU. Bach retired the next two hitters, however, and the Keydets rallied in the fourth.
With two outs, Dowdell grabbed VMI’s first hit of the game with his first long ball of the year, cutting the Keydet deficit to 2-1. Connerley then followed with a sharp single up the middle and promptly stole second, before David Geary drove him home with a single to left, tying the game at 2-2.
BU threatened in the sixth, after Howell had a two-out single and Brian Ruby walked. A wild pitch moved both runners up, and Eddie Posavec walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. That brought Taylor Edens on our of the bullpen, and he retired Zach Blanden on a line drive back to the mound to end the inning.
The Keydets turned away the Bearcats again in the seventh, after Daniel Nevares had a one-out single and Jake Thomas walked. A balk put runners at second and third, but an infield out did not score the lead runner. With two out in the inning, Hawkins was summoned from the bullpen and he retired Howell on a line drive to center field, putting out the fire and setting up the VMI rally in the bottom of the frame.
Binghamton was not done, however, as Ruby led off the eighth by winning an 11-pitch battle and drawing a walk. One out later, Blanden also walked and Jonathan Kelley was brought on to face Bereszniewicz. The junior induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and protect the Keydet lead.
The visitors had one more rally in them, as Nevares and Thomas both walked to start the ninth against VMI closer Thomas. A sacrifice bunt put them in scoring position, but Thomas struck out both Brendan Skidmore and Howell to preserve the VMI win.
“I was proud of how we rebounded and played well in this game, after a difficult game one,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “Our bullpen did an excellent job in the nightcap.”
VMI baseball is back in action Sunday, wrapping up the series with Binghamton at Gray-Minor Stadium. Game time is set for 1 p.m.