LEXINGTON, Va. - The VMI Keydets brought the potential winning run to the plate in the ninth inning, but the Longwood Lancers pulled out a dramatic 8-6 victory in non-conference baseball action Wednesday night at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington.
Longwood (18-16) jumped ahead with four runs in the first against VMI (11-22) starter Campbell Henkel (1-4), making a rare midweek appearance. The Lancers then saw their lead increase to 7-1 through four and a half frames, helped by home runs from Robby Newman and Brandon Delk, before the Keydet rally began. Back to back RBI doubles in the fifth made it a four-run deficit, and that lead shrunk to two after VMI notched a pair of runs in the sixth. Unfortunately for the home team, Joey Varaksa homered in the ninth to provide an insurance run, and Cameron Walter flew out to right-center field to end the game with two runners on, with Varaksa making a sprawling catch to seal the victory.
Longwood starter Brandon Vick (5-1) got the win, despite being tagged for nine hits and five runs over five innings. The Lancer bullpen surrendered just one run over the final four innings, as Matt Gwaltney picked up his second save of the year. Henkel allowed four runs in the first inning, and was charged with the loss.
The visitors notched a four-spot in the first inning, and did so before a batter had been retired. Matt Dickason walked, and Scott Burkett singled up the middle. A RBI single from Justin Lacy followed, before Newman hit a three-run home run over the right field wall, capping the Longwood first inning scoring.
The Lancers added another run in the second against reliever Miles McQuaig, as Newman drove home Burkett with a RBI double, making it a 5-0 game. The Keydets, however, got one back in the bottom half, as Nick Dwyer led off with his first career triple, a line drive down the right field line, and scored on a squeeze bunt by Berkley Hawkins.
Longwood made it 7-1 with single runs in the third and fifth, but George Piccirilli dropped down a bunt single with two outs in the Keydet fifth. Eric Mayers followed with a double to deep left field to score Piccirilli, and Jacob Morley launched a double of his own to straightaway center field, scoring Mayers and cutting the deficit to 7-3.
The Keydets added two more in the sixth, when Hawkins led off with a single. Walter followed with a ground ball deep in the shortstop hole, a ball that Dickason threw wildly to first, allowing both runners to advance. An infield out and a sacrifice fly then scored both players, making it a 7-5 game.
VMI threatened in the seventh, when Dwyer singled and stole second with two outs, but to no avail, and the score remained 7-5 in to the ninth inning. There, Varaksa homered with one out to push the Longwood margin to 8-5, but VMI rallied in the bottom half.
With one out, Mayers singled, and Morley followed with a single of his own. Dwyer struck out, but Hawkins hit a looper over Dickason's head to score Mayers and cut the lead to 8-6. That brought up Walter as the potential winning run, and after fouling off seven pitchers, he hit a fly ball to shallow right center field. Varaska sprinted in, made a sliding, tumbling catch and was able to hold on to the ball to secure the victory.
Delk went 4 for 4 with two home runs for Longwood, while Mayers, Hawkins and Walter all had two hits apiece for VMI.
VMI baseball will return to action Friday, opening a three-game Big South series with the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in Conway, S.C. Game time is set for 6 p.m.