BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Scott Coleman drove in the go ahead run with a suicide squeeze bunt in the eighth and Adam Izokovic closed the door in the ninth to give Gardner-Webb a 5-4 win over VMI Saturday.
The win was the fourth in a row for Gardner-Webb (24-20, 6-8 Big South).
Izokovic tied the school’s single season saves record with his ninth of the season, getting a spectacular play at shortstop from Ryan Hodge to end the game. Hodge tracked a ground ball deep in the hole, slid to a knee and threw out the tying run at third base. Izokovic tied the saves record also held by Daniel Planck (1999). Izokovic already held the school's career saves record, which he extended to 23 with Saturday's effort.
Coleman’s bunt followed an unusual series of events, as GWU caught a break with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Dusty Quattlebaum laced a single into left to get things started, and pinch runner Alex Newman sprinted all the way around to third when Adam Lopez’ wild pitch bounced high up the backstop netting. On the next pitch, Newman sprinted toward the plate and slid in safely for a 5-4 lead.
The Keydets (14-29, 6-14 Big South) got a pair of runners on board in the top of the ninth with two outs, but could not pull back even.
VMI jumped out to a 3-0 lead early, plating a run in the first and two more in the second. Gardner-Webb responded with a three-run burst of its own in the bottom of the second to tie the game.
Dusty Quattlebaum led off the second and was hit by a pitch and moved to second when Scott Coleman drew a four-pitch walk. Brad Collins followed with a single to load the bases and Adam McFarland cut the led to 3-1 with a sharp single to left. VMI rolled a double play to slow the rally, but Coleman scored on the play for Gardner-Webb's second run of the game.
A wild pitch from VMI starter Campbell Henkel allowed Collins to trot home for the tying run.
The two teams went quietly in the third and fourth innings, and VMI caught a tough break with two outs in the fifth when Gardner-Webb catcher John Harris pounced on a wild pitch and threw Drew Bryan out at the plate trying to score from third.
That play turned momentum squarely in favor of the Runnin' Bulldogs, as Henry Rundio roped a single to left to lead off the bottom half of the fifth and came around to score on Zeke Blanton's RBI single up the middle. Hodge was hit by a pitch to put two on with one out, but VMI avoided a big inning with a strikeout/throwout double play to halt the rally with Gardner-Webb in front 4-3.
VMI mounted a rally in the eighth, with Rob Dickinson leading off with a single through the right side. A sacrifice bunt moved Dickinson up a base and an intentional walk to Jacob Morley put the tying run on board. Pinch hitter Brandon Diamond then loaded the bases with a nicely placed bunt single, and Nick Dwyer tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center. Reliever Jeff Howell struck out Matt Winn to end the inning, however, stranding a pair of Keydets in the process.
That strikeout set the stage for the winning rally in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Howell (2-3) picked up the win, hurling an inning of relief and allowing just one hit (one strikeout). Andrew Barnett overcame a slow start to pitch well in a no decision, going 7.0 innings and allowing four runs on just five hits (four strikeouts).
Gardner-Webb had seven different players collect one hit in the game, with Blanton (1-for-3) and McFarland (1-for-4) collecting RBI – along with Coleman on the squeeze bunt.
VMI’s Lopez (0-2) took the loss, allowing one run on one hit in an inning of work. The Keydets collected six hits in the game, with Dickinson (2-for-3, 3B, 2 runs, RBI) leading that charge.
The two teams will play the series finale on Sunday at 2:00 pm. The game will air live on WGWG-FM (88.3 / wgwg.org), with Fabian Fuentes and Travis Sherrill calling the action.