SPARTANBURG, S.C. – VMI scored a combined four runs in the fourth and fifth innings Friday night, and held on for a 7-5 win over Gardner-Webb at Harley Park.
Gardner-Webb (15-14, 5-2 Big South) saw its five-game league winning streak snapped, and played its fifth game in a row decided by two runs or less.
The Diamond ‘Dogs trailed 5-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but caught a big break when Matt Sapp’s leadoff single was followed by a fielding error that allowed leadoff man Daniel Merck to reach. Aaron Miller made the miscue painful for the Keydets (26-5, 8-2 Big South), roping a two-run triple to right field to trim the lead to 5-3. Miller then trotted home on a passed ball to cut the lead to 5-4, and Gardner-Webb put two more on board before VMI could work out of the jam.
Neither team scratched in the seventh, and the Keydets got an insurance run when Justin Topping led off the top of the eighth with a solo home run just over the wall down the line in left field. GWU reliever Brett Stackhouse worked out of the inning without further damage, and Gardner-Webb made another push in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Josh Drewery led off with a single to left and Ty Boyles doubled to left to cut the lead to 6-5. A line drive single by Jake Watts pushed Boyles to third, with the GWU catcher having to hold at second to make sure the shot was clear of the VMI shortstop’s glove. The Keydets quickly went to closer Michael Devine, who calmly worked through the no-out jam, stranding both Boyles and Watts in scoring position to retain the lead.
A leadoff triple in the ninth by Cory Spangenberg led to a sacrifice fly and a 7-5 lead for VMI, and Gardner-Webb could get no closer – despite bringing the tying run to the plate early in the bottom of the ninth after Merck was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame. Devine picked up his seventh save of the season, ending the game on a strikeout.
Gardner-Webb had 11 hits in the game, with Boyles (2-for-4, 2B, RBI) and Matt Sapp (2-for-2, 2B, run) leading the way.
Conner Scarborough (0-4) took the loss, working 3.2 innings and allowing three runs on three hits. Stackhouse worked the final 5.1 innings, scattering nine hits and four earned runs with three strikeouts.
Jason Farley (4-1) earned the win, going 6.1 innings and allowing just two earned runs on eight hits.
VMI got three of its 12 hits from Spangenberg, who drove in the Keydets’ first two runs of the game with solo home runs in the first and fourth innings. To that point, those were the only two hits allowed by Gardner-Webb.
Graham Sullivan and Topping also had a pair of hits for VMI.
The Diamond ‘Dogs and Keydets will face off again on Saturday at Harley Park, with first pitch set for 2:00 pm.