ROCK HILL, S.C. – A two-run rally in the top of the ninth inning led VMI to a 6-5 win over Winthrop on Sunday afternoon in Big South Conference baseball action at the Winthrop Ballpark. The win gives VMI (16-27, 9-11 Big South) its first-ever series win in Rock Hill over the Eagles (26-18, 13-8 Big South).
VMI fell behind 5-4 in the eighth inning, when Eddie Tisdale scored an unearned run on Sean Sullivan’s ground out. Winthrop closer Tyler Mizenko (2-4), working for the third-consecutive day, allowed a leadoff single to Jacob Morley in the ninth, marking the first base runner against the right-hander in his fourth inning of work on the day.
A.J. Yoder then dropped down a sacrifice bunt and reached base when Mizenko slipped when attempting to field it. After a Tanner Biagini fly out allowed Morley to reach third base, a wild pitch tied the contest at five. Jordan Ballard followed with a base knock up the middle, plating Yoder from second base with the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the ninth, Matt Edwards (3-3) retired the first batter he faced before giving way to Sam Roberts for the second straight day. Aaron Bonomi sent a hot-shot grounder to the right-side of the infield that glanced off the glove of Ballard at first base, but Yoder grabbed the carom and flipped to first base to record the second out. After a full-count walk put the tying run on base, Steele Myers, entering the contest at shortstop when Roberts came on to pitch, went deep in the hole and gunned Kevin Nolan at first base, locking up the series win for VMI.
“It wasn’t pretty, especially with us leaving seven men on base early with a chance to break the game wide open,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “But we hung tough and got some really good at bats in the ninth inning. Jacob Morley got us started with a big hit, and Jordan Ballard came through to get the game-winning RBI. Steele Myers then came in and made one of the best defensive plays I’ve seen a shortstop make with the game on the line. I was really proud of the way our guys competed today to get another comeback win on the road.”
Starting pitcher Chris Henderson worked 7.2 innings for the Keydets, allowing five runs, with just three of them earned. The right-hander struck out six while scattering six hits, as VMI made six errors in the win. Edwards set down the only two batters he faced, while Roberts recorded the final two outs for his third save of the season.
“Chris Henderson did what we needed him to do today,” said Ikenberry. “I couldn’t be more proud of the job he did. He battled through and pitched out of some tough innings. And I was really impressed with Matt Edwards and Sam Roberts coming in on back-to-back days to record the final four outs.”
Winthrop took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, when Eddie Rohan hit his 12th home run of the season. The Keydets grabbed a 2-1 lead in the third on Alex Haitsuka’s bases-loaded double, before Rohan knotted things up with his sacrifice fly in the third.
Morley hit his second home run of the season in the fourth inning, a solo shot to give the visitors a 3-2 advantage. Justin Topping made it a two-run lead in the fifth with an RBI single into center field, chasing home Roberts.
Winthrop answered immediately, collecting a double and a single to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Henderson settled down to strike out the next two batters, but then surrendered a two-run double to Rohan, tying the game at five.
After VMI was retired in order in the top of the sixth, Matt Thielepape reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the inning. A failed pickoff attempt moved Thielepape to third base, and with one out, John Murrian lifted a fly ball to right field. Brian Sandridge made the catch and fired home, nailing Thielepape at the plate as he attempted to score the go-ahead run.
The Eagles then took the lead in the eighth inning, when Tisdale reached on a one-out error and scored two batters later on Sullivan’s grounder to shortstop.
VMI then rallied for just its second win this season when trailing after eight innings and just its second weekend series win over Winthrop in its six years in the Big South.
Haitsuka drove home a pair while going 2-for-3 for the Keydets, while Morley went 2-for-4 with a home run. The Eagles were led offensively by Rohan, whose 2-for-3 outing included four RBI.
Matteo D’Angelo lasted five innings on the mound for the Eagles, surrendering four runs on eight hits. Mizenko, who worked a perfect first three frames of relief, was charged with two runs on three hits through four innings.
The Keydets return to action on Tuesday evening, traveling to Williamsburg to take on William & Mary at Plumeri Park at 7 p.m.