LEXINGTON, Va. - The top five hitters in the lineup went 10 for 21 with 10 RBIs as No. 26 VMI defeated No. 1 Virginia, 12-3, in front of a record crowd of 1,463 fans at Gray-Minor Stadium Wednesday night. The win is VMI's first-ever over a top-ranked opponent and improves the Keydets to 29-5 on the season. The Cavaliers fall to 27-8 with the loss, the team's first mid-week setback in 10 games this season.
In a showdown pitting two nationally-ranked teams for the first-time ever at VMI, the Keydets responded each time that Virginia cracked the scoreboard. The Cavs jumped on top with a run in the first, but VMI answered with three in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good. Virginia cut the deficit to 3-2 in the fourth, but VMI posted two in the bottom-half to maintain the advantage. In the sixth, a John Barr home run capped the visitors' scoring, before VMI sent 10 men to the plate in a six-run sixth to put the game out of reach.
"I was really impressed with the atmosphere tonight," said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. "The community of Lexington, the Corps, our parents and our fans that were out here supporting us made a big difference tonight. I didn't realize how big of a crowd it was until after the first inning, when we put a three-spot, and ran off the field. With two nationally-ranked teams playing each other in the mid-week, it was really a nice atmosphere to play in."
Keydet sophomore Jeremy Brown allowed two runs in 3.1 innings, making his second start of the season. He gave way to Chris Duty (2-0), who improved to 12-3 in his career by working three innings, allowing a single run. Jason Farley retired each of the five batters he faced, before freshman John Garrett worked a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve VMI's ninth-straight win.
"I was proud of Jeremy Brown settling down after loading the bases with no outs," said Ikenberry. "He made a great pitch, then made a great play to start a 1-2-3 double play. He really was able to settle in after that and put up a couple of important zeroes for us. Chris Duty did an exceptional job in the middle innings and Jason (Farley) came in with some guys on and got a pop-up and a punch-out to keep us out of trouble. John Garrett worked a scoreless ninth, which was good to see out of our bullpen."
Sam Roberts led an offensive attack that battered the Cavaliers' pitching staff for the most runs it had allowed all season. From the leadoff spot, Roberts went 2 for 3 with four RBIs, thanks to a two-run home in the fourth and a two-run single in the sixth. Jordan Ballard drove in three, while Graham Sullivan and Tanner Biagini each had a pair of knocks, including an RBI double in the sixth.
"The top of our lineup did some damage tonight," said Ikenberry. "We had some nice at bats in the first inning to get ourselves a 3-1 lead. It was good to come out that aggressive early against a team like that. I was really proud of the way we swung the bats today. This was the best pitching staff that we have faced, and I thought we did a nice job of seeing pitches. And we hit their mistakes, which we traditionally haven't done in the past."
Cavalier starter Whit Mayberry (1-2) took the loss, allowing five runs, four earned, on six hits through 3.2 innings. He was the first of six hurlers to see the mound for the visitors, with each of the first four allowing runs. Phil Gosselin and Barr were the only Virginia players with multiple hits or an extra-base hit, as Gosselin led off the game with a double and Barr slugged his first career home run in the sixth.
Brown cut short what appeared to be a promising Virginia rally in the first, as the right-hander induced a double play then got a strikeout to end the threat after plunking Steven Proscia with the bases loaded to force in a run. VMI used that momentum to take the lead in the bottom-half, as Ballard drove home Roberts and Cory Spangenberg with a single up the middle before scoring on a fielding error at third base three batters later.
With a 3-1 advantage, Brown settled in to allow just a single base runner in both the second and third innings. The scoring opened back up in the fourth, as Barr plated Jarrett Hicks with a one-out single. A walk to Gosselin loaded the bases and chased Brown from the game. Duty entered with one out and struck out #2 hitter Tyler Cannon and #3 hitter Stephen Bruno, preserving VMI's 3-2 lead.
VMI got that run back in the bottom half, when Roberts hit his eighth home run of the season, a two-run shot that spelled the end of the night for Mayberry. Justin Thompson entered and retired the next four batters, keeping the margin at 5-2 into the sixth.
Barr's home run with two outs in the sixth proved to be Virginia's final score of the night. VMI once again answered in the home half, scoring six runs, the most allowed in a single inning by the Cavaliers since the opening weekend of the season. In the rally, each of the top five hitters in the lineup had RBIs, including a two-run single by Roberts, an infield single by Spangenberg, a sacrifice fly by Ballard and back-to-back doubles by Sullivan and Biagini. A leadoff home run by Rob Dickinson in the seventh capped the night's scoring.
VMI opens a Big South Conference series Friday evening, taking on Liberty at 7 p.m. in Lynchburg. Each of the three games will be broadcast on Lexington's Fox Sports Radio 1450 AM and online at www.VMIKeydets.com.
Keydet Quick Hits
- Wednesday's contest was the first time Virginia has played at Gray-Minor Stadium since falling, 5-2, to VMI on April 3, 2007. That game held program record's as the highest-ranked team the program had defeated (#3) and the largest crowd in facility history (1,265) until both marks were broken with Wednesday's win.
- VMI has now hit a home run in 29 of its 34 games this season.
- The loss was Virginia's worst setback since falling 10-0 to Miami on April 27, 2008.
- The Keydets are 23-1 when allowing five runs or less this season and 23-2 when scoring at least six runs.
- VMI's 29 wins in 2010 are tied for the third-most in program history.
- VMI and Coastal Carolina are tied for the national lead in wins with 29.