Ninth-Inning Single Sends VMI to 6-5 Defeat in Opener
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LEXINGTON, Va. – Despite the VMI Keydets rallying from two deficits, 2-0 and 5-3, Winthrop Eagle Max Vogel had a pinch-hit, RBI single in the ninth inning, sending the visiting Eagles over the Keydets 6-5 in the opener of a Big South doubleheader Saturday at Gray-Minor Stadium.

After VMI’s (11-19, 4-7 Big South) second comeback had tied the game, 5-5, T.J. Olesczuk reached on an error to start the Winthrop ninth. He moved up on a sacrifice bunt, and Reed Garrett (2-2) struck out pinch hitter Jace Whitley. Matt Lobacz walked, and Vogel hit for second baseman Chad Smith. Garrett worked the count to 1-2, but Vogel then delivered the go-ahead hit, a single to left field to put WU (10-22, 3-5) ahead for good.

Eric Ruth, the Winthrop starter, moved to 3-2 with eight innings of work, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter. Austin Stuart allowed one hit in the ninth, picking up his third save, and Garrett (2-2) allowed just a single unearned run in four innings of relief, but took the loss. Rob Dickinson led the Keydet offense with a 3 for 4 day, and fell just a single shy of the cycle.

The Keydets threatened in the opening inning against Ruth, as Dickinson led off with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. George Piccirilli, however, struck out, and after Gary LeClair was hit by a pitch, Jacob Morley bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the threat.

Winthrop got on the board in the second, scoring on a two-run single by first baseman Lobacz. The inning was aided by a throwing error on the part of pitcher Campbell Henkel, one of three Keydet errors in the contest. The Eagles’ lead, however, did not last long, as Berkley Hawkins led off the VMI second with an infield hit. Nick Dwyer was hit by a pitch, and after Ruth retired the next two hitters, Matt Winn singled up the middle to score Hawkins, and make it a 2-1 contest. The next batter, Dickinson, hit a towering drive off the right field wall for a triple, scoring both runners and giving VMI a 3-2 edge.

That lead held up until the fifth, when Patrick Gamblin victimized VMI starter Campbell Henkel for a two-run home run, giving the Eagles the lead once again, 4-3. Winthrop would tack on a run in the inning, thanks to another RBI hit from Lobacz, and would take a 5-3 cushion into the seventh.

The Keydets got one back in that frame, as Dwyer reached on an error, and Cameron Walter followed with a perfectly executed hit and run single, sending the VMI shortstop to third base. A double play grounder then scored Dwyer, making it a 5-4 game. It remained that way until the second pitch of the VMI eighth, when Dickinson sent a towering home run over the auxiliary batting cages behind the right field fence, a shot that tied the game, 5-5, and set the stage for the ninth inning drama.

In addition to Dickinson, Walter had a pair of hits in the opener, while Lobacz was 3 for 4 with three RBI for Winthrop.
VMI starting pitcher Henkel did not figure in the decision, lasting 4 2/3 innings and being charged with five runs, four of which were earned.