BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. - Zeke Blanton had a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, completing a three-run rally by the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs as they defeated the VMI Keydets, 4-3 in 10 innings, Friday evening at John Henry Moss Stadium in Boiling Springs, N.C.
The Keydets (14-28, 6-13 Big South) took a 3-1 lead into the ninth, after a stellar pitching performance by Jeremy Brown. Brown, however, allowed the first two hitters to reach base, and gave way to John Garrett (2-3). Dusty Quattlebaum flied out to deep right, advancing a runner to third, and the next batter, John Harris, hit a one-hopper to Chase Worthington at third base. Worthington threw home for the out, putting runners at first and second with two outs, but Scott Coleman and Brad Collins followed with back to back RBI singles to tie the game, 3-3.
In the 10th, Garrett gave up a leadoff single to Adam McFarland, and Scott Johnson was credited with a bunt single when the Keydet defense was unable to field a sacrifice bunt attempt. That put two runners on, but Benji Jackson hit a hard grounder to second base. The Keydets got the out at second, but were unable to turn two, and that brought Michael Devine out of the bullpen. Blanton hit his first pitch to medium-deep right field, and Jacob Morley made a strong, accurate throw home, but McFarland slid in just ahead of the tag to give Gardner-Webb (23-20, 5-8 BSC) the win.
Garrett took the loss for the Keydets, as he was charged with the winning run, while Mitch Warner picked up the win for GWU, moving to 4-1 with four innings of one-hit relief.
Gardner-Webb drew first blood, scoring in the opening inning. Blanton and Ryan Hodge had back to back singles, and Quattlebaum followed by fouling off a high drive down the left field line. VMI's Brandon Angus made a hustling, sliding catch on the foul ball, but that snag enabled Blanton to tag and score, putting the Runnin' Bulldogs up, 1-0.
VMI tied the game with a run in the fourth, as Nick Dwyer and Matt Winn had back to back two-out doubles. Winn, hitting in the six-hole for the first time in his career, would factor in another run later in the contest. First, however, the Keydets took the lead in the sixth. George Piccirilli singled with one out, and one batter later, Cameron Walter looped a triple down the right field line, his third triple of the season. The hit scored Piccirilli and gave VMI a 2-1 edge.
That cushion grew in the seventh, when Winn led off with a double. That brought Warner out of the GWU bullpen, but Stallings greeted him with a base hit through the left side. Winn stopped at third, but Stallings broke for second as the throw came in to the cutoff man. The GWU third baseman threw to second, trying to nab Stallings, but the ball got away for an error, allowing Winn to score and VMI to go up, 3-1.
Meanwhile, Brown had settled down, retiring 11 in a row at one point, and entering the ninth, has not given up a hit since the third inning. That streak continued, but he walked his first batter of the game in Blanton and then hit Hodge in the foot, putting two runners on and setting the stage for the late-game drama.
Neither starter figured in the decision, as Brown allowed three runs on four hits over eight-plus innings, striking out a career-high nine, while Matt Fraudin gave up three runs (two earned) over six frames.
George Piccirilli and Matt Winn had two hits apiece for VMI, with both of Winn's being doubles, while Blanton led the home team with a 2 for 3 day.
The series between VMI and Gardner-Webb will continue Saturday in Boiling Springs, with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.