VMI Wins Seesaw Affair Over Asheville, 9-7
LEXINGTON, Va. – In a game that featured four lead changes, 16 runs and 23 hits the UNC Asheville baseball team allowed a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth to drop a 9-7 decision to Big South Conference foe VMI on Friday evening at Gray-Minor Stadium.
Mike Vaughn went 4-for-5 against VMI on Friday evening
Courtesy: UNC Asheville
With the Bulldogs clinging to a 7-6 lead in the sixth Asheville retired the first two batters of the frame before a walk and an error put two Keydets on base. Alex Haitsuka would single to score one and then Jacob Morley would hit a triple to right to plate two more, giving VMI the 9-7 advantage.
Asheville would not be able to muster any more runs over the next three innings as VMI would pick up the conference win. With the loss the Blue & White have now dropped 10 contests in a row, with the Bulldogs’ last victory coming against High Point on April 17. Asheville is now 15-31 on the year overall with a 7-15 mark in league play.
VMI improve to 23-22-1 on the year with a 10-12 mark in the Big South. Alan Watts picked up the victory in relief allowing only one run on three hits with three strikeouts in two innings of work.
Grier Harrington was credited with the loss for the Bulldogs in a relief appearance. The usual Saturday starter was brought in after starter Ryan Dull was hit by a line drive in the shoulder. Harrington drops to 3-9 on the year with the loss.
Offensively first baseman Mike Vaughn went 4-for-5 at the plate with two runs scored and one run batted in. Grant Gajdosz went 3-for-5 and Patrick Koontz was 2-for-5 with two runs scored, while catcher Ian Graham tallied two RBI despite not registering a hit in the game.
With the threat of rain looming, the game started 15 minutes early on the warm, humid night. Asheville got on the board first against starter Coby Cowgill, as Koontz and Vaughn had back to back singles. After a sacrifice bunt, Graham grounded to first, scoring Koontz and staking Dull to a 1-0 lead.
Dull responded by striking out two of the three hitters in the second inning, and neither squad could score in the third. Asheville brought home three runs in the fourth, as the first four hitters reached against Cowgill. Vaughn had the first run-scoring blow, a looping double down the left-field line, before a run scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0, Bulldogs. Graham capped the inning with a sacrifice fly, pushing the visitors' lead to 4-0.
The fourth inning saw a reversal of the fortunes, as Haitsuka had a one-out single. Morley then hit a line drive back to Dull, which appeared to bounce off the pitcher's shoulder and carom away. The hurler was able to retrieve it and force Haitsuka at second, but had to leave the game due to an apparent injury. Reliever Matthew Pate was greeted with back to back hits by Justin Topping and Dickinson, the second of which was an RBI double, putting VMI on the board at 4-1.
Justin Hess started the next inning by getting hit by a pitch, prompting Asheville to call Harrington out of the bullpen. Hess promptly stole second, Sam Roberts singled and Sullivan walked to load the bases. Piccirilli then drove in a run with a fielder's choice, and Haitsuka had an RBI single to make it 4-3. One out later, Topping walked on a 3-2 pitch, and Dickinson cleared the bases with a shot down the right-field line for his second double of the game, giving VMI its first lead of the night at 6-4.
That edge was short lived, as Cody Buch had an RBI single to cut the Keydet lead to one in the sixth. That ended Cowgill's night and brought on Watts, who issued a walk and a wild pitch to put runners at second and third with no outs. Catlin Carter followed with an RBI single, tying the game at 6, and one out later, Jordan Lurie had a sacrifice fly to give the visitors the lead once again, 7-6. That would set the stage for the sixth inning, and Morley's decisive blow.
The first two batters were retired in the sixth, with the Bulldogs leading 7-6, but Graham Sullivan drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. George Piccirilli then hit a ground ball to shortstop Catlin Carter, but the ball appeared to graze off the tip of Carter's glove for an error. Alex Haitsuka then tied the game with an RBI single, scoring Sullivan, and Morley followed with a drive off the wall in right for his second triple of the year.
With VMI leading 9-7 entering the seventh, Asheville would not go quietly. Grant Gajdosz singled to lead off the inning, and Koontz followed with a ground ball to second base. Hess charged the ball, and Gajdosz and the VMI second baseman had a hard collision. Hess held on to the ball, and Koontz was declared out on the interference call, resulting in a double play.
Watts completed the seventh without further issues, and Thomas worked a 1-2-3 eighth. The Bulldogs rallied in the ninth, but with two on, Thomas induced Koontz to fly to center and got Vaughn to ground to short, giving him the save and VMI the victory.
The Bulldogs and Keydets will return to action Saturday, playing middle game of this three-game Big South series. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.