After VMI (11-18, 4-6 Big South) had gotten just one runner to second base through the first four innings, Nick Dwyer singled to lead off the fifth against WU (9-22, 2-5) starter Matt Pierpont (3-5). Cameron Walter then followed with a double to very short left field, bringing up Drew Bryan for the game’s most bizarre play.
Bryan hit a high chopper, just over the reach of a backpedaling Winthrop third baseman and into foul territory in short left field. The third base umpire appeared to signal that the ball was foul, slowing the pace of the defense, but both VMI runners advanced a base during the course of the play. As the ball was tossed back in, the umpire signaled that the ball had been fair, allowing Dwyer’s run to count and VMI to cut the deficit to 4-1.
The play appeared to unsettle Pierpont, as after an infield out, Rob Dickinson roped a double off the right-center field wall, scoring Walter. George Piccirilli followed with a three-run home run to left field, giving VMI the 5-4 lead, an edge the Keydets would not relinquish.
They would break it open in the eighth with five additional runs in the eighth, making a winner of VMI starter Coby Cowgill (5-1). Cowgill was charged with four runs on nine hits over 7 1/3 frames, but allowed just three hits after the fourth inning, squelching any hopes of a Winthrop comeback. John Garrett pitched 1 2/3 hitless innings, picking up his fifth save, while Pierpont was charged with the loss, surrendering 10 runs (nine earned) over 7 1/3 innings of work.
The Eagles got on the board first Friday, as Patrick Gamblin doubled with one out in the second. Chas Crane followed with a bloop single to center, and Jace Whitley drove home Gamblin with a single to left, putting WU up 1-0. A wild pitch advanced both runners, and with the infield back, Leighton Daniels grounded out to Bryan, plating Crane to make it a 2-0 game.
That margin grew to 4-0 in the fourth, as with two on, Crane doubled to deep center field over the head of Dickinson, scoring two runners in the process. A sacrifice bunt moved Crane over to third base, but Daniels then hit a slow roller in front of the mound. Crane broke on contact, but Cowgill charged the ball aggressively and flipped to catcher Matt Winn. The tag was in time for the out, and Cowgill struck out the next hitter, Tyler Donovan, to end the inning without further damage.
The Keydets had two runners on with one out in the fourth, but Donovan picked Jacob Morley off first base for the second out, and the rally went for naught. Cowgill, however, retired the side in order in the fifth, setting the stage for the Keydet comeback.
After the VMI fifth, the teams combined for just one hit over the next two innings, until the Eagles threatened in the eighth. With one out, TJ Olesczuk hit a slow roller down the third base line, about 25 feet from home plate, for an infield hit. Matt Lobacz followed with a single to right, and Garrett was summoned out of the bullpen. Gamblin flied out, but a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position for Crane. The third baseman hit a hard liner to right field, but Morley made the catch to retire the side, and preserve the one-run lead.
The Keydets blew the game open in the eighth. Piccirilli reached on an error, a ball hit under the glove of Crane at third base, to start the frame. He then moved to third on a wild pitch, and two batters later, scored on a double by Chase Worthington. Dwyer then singled home two runs, and Walter wrapped up the scoring with a line drive home run to left, giving VMI its final margin, 10-4.
In victory, five Keydets had two hits apiece, including Piccirilli and Walter. Gamblin led Winthrop’s offensive effort with a 3 for 4 performance.
VMI baseball will return to action Saturday, concluding its Big South series with Winthrop with a scheduled doubleheader at Gray-Minor Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.