HARRISONBURG, VA., March 3, 2010 - Junior McKinnon Langston's (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian) game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth capped a James Madison rally from a 9-2 deficit to record an 11-10 win over Longwood in the first game at brand-new Veterans Memorial Park on Wednesday evening.
JMU picked up its first win of the season to improve to 1-3 and give head coach Spanky McFarland his 550th career victory. Longwood suffered its first loss of the season to drop to 5-1.
McFarland commented on the game, "I'm glad we won, though that's probably not how I would have drawn it up. I would have rather had a blowout so people could have relaxed a little bit, and we could have gotten everybody in the game. At the same time, we were down seven and to come back from a seven-run lead says a lot about our team. I know one thing, it was stressful. I guess that's a good game, any win is a good game."
Longwood led 9-2 through five and a half innings. JMU responded with a five-run sixth and two in the seventh to tie the game at 9-9. Redshirt senior Matt Townsend (Lorton, Va./Hayfield) lifted a solo home run to right to give JMU the lead going into the ninth.
Third baseman Phil Cerreto led off the inning with a flare single to right off JMU junior closer Kevin Munson (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring). First baseman Casey Havers then singled to center with the ball getting under the glove of freshman center fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge), allowing the tying run to score unearned. After a strikeout, shortstop Scott Kimble lifted a fly ball to medium-depth right field, but a solid throw by Townsend chased the runner back to third to preserve the tie. Catcher Robbie Newman followed with a well-struck grounder to the left side with Langston making a diving stop and throwing to first for the third out.
The great defensive play set the stage for Langston's offensive heroics in the ninth. Senior left fielder Matt Browning (Mystic, Conn./Fitch) led off the ninth with a sharp single to center. He stole second and moved to third on a single through the left side by redshirt senior Brett Garner (Burke, Va./Lake Braddock). Longwood intentionally walked senior shortstop Mike Fabiaschi (Torrington, Conn./Torrington) to load the bases and set up the force at home with no outs. Pinch hitter David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield), who beat Longwood in 2009 on a walk-off home run, struck out for the first out. That brought up Langston, who smacked a one ball, one strike offering through the left side of the infield for the game winner.
McFarland said of Langston's big moment, "All these guys, once they get their first hit out of the way have a momentum going. They're mature; they've been around the block a few times. They can focus when the game is on the line and they did."
Munson earned the victory to improve to 1-0 after the blown save in the ninth. He allowed an unearned run on two hits with a strikeout. Munson was attempting to tie the JMU record for career saves, currently sitting one back with 13. Seniors Jason Kuhn (Stafford, Va./Brooke Point) and David Edwards (Ocala, Fla./St. Cloud) combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief prior to Munson with one hit and three stikeouts apiece.
Mark Montgomery took the loss for Longwood after allowing two runs on five hits with three strikeouts in two innings of work. Freshman Bobby Shelton was effective in his second collegiate start, allowing two runs on four hits through five innings.
Four players had multiple hits as JMU pounded out season highs of 11 runs and 14 hits. Bladel drove in three runs, the first RBIs of his career, on a single and a two-run double. Browning and Garner each went 3-for-5 with a double while Langston also doubled with two RBIs. Freshman Matt Tenaglia (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) and sophomore Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) each drove in two runs in key pinch-hit situations on a double and home run, respectively.
It was a big night for a pair of freshmen, with Bladel and Tenaglia combining for five RBIs. McFarland commented, "We knew they were good ball players. Interestingly enough, the young guys kind of got us going and the old guys finished it up. You'd like to think the old guys would start it up, but it's pretty cool that the young guys got some big hits "
Newman had two hits for the Lancers, including a grand slam in the fourth for the first home run ever at Veterans Memorial Park. Third baseman Phil Cerreto, Havers, and Kimble each had two hits for Longwood.
JMU grabbed the early lead in the bottom of the second as Garner picked up the first hit in park history with a double to the gap in left center. Fabiaschi then singled up the middle to drive in the first run for a 1-0 JMU lead.
It was the last lead for the Dukes until the eighth inning. In the top of the third, right fielder Dustin Sollars drew a two-out bloop single to right for the first base runner for the Lancers. He moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a triple to right center by center fielder Robbie Bailey. Bailey then gave the Lancers the lead as he scored on another wild pitch by junior starter Turner Phelps (Roanoke, Va./Lord Botetourt).
In the fourth, Longwood loaded the bases on a double by Havers, a walk by left fielder David Smiy, Jr., and a single up the middle by Kimble. Newman then smashed an opposite-field grand slam over wall in right for a 6-1 Longwood advantage.
Langston got on base for the Dukes in the fifth with a double to right center. Bladel then singled to right for his first collegiate RBI and moved to second on a fielding error. A wild pitch, passed ball on a third strike, and a stolen base set up two runners in scoring position with one out. However, a groundout by Townsend and flyout by Knight ended the inning at 6-2.
Longwood put runners on in the sixth on a bunt single by Newman and a walk by Bailey. Second baseman Brant Jones then drove in two runs on a triple and Cerreto followed with an RBI single for a 9-2 Longwood lead.
JMU put two on in sixth on a double by Browning and a walk by Fabiaschi. A wild pitch and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out. An RBI groundout by Langston drove in one run. Bladel then hit a double that landed right on the left-field line to drive in a pair of runs for a 9-5 score. Lowery then lined a pinch-hit, two-run homer right over the 16-foot wall in right for a 9-7 score.
The Dukes struck again in the bottom of the seventh. Browning and Garner hit consecutive one-out singles. After a strikeout, Tenaglia came through with his first collegiate hit and RBIs, a two-run double to the gap in right center to tie the score at 9-9.
JMU started the bottom of the eighth with a pair of well-struck flyouts. Townsend then lifted an opposite-field home run to right for a 10-9 JMU lead, the first lead of the game for the Dukes. That set the stage for the tying run for Longwood in the top of the ninth and Langston's walk-off heroics in the bottom of the frame.
McFarland recapped the win by saying, "Longwood is a good team, entering today with a record of 5-0. They haven't played the teams that we've played, but you know they have a lot of confidence down there. We're probably the first good team that they've played. I'm just happy that one's over, that was a lot of moves. I'm not used to making that many moves in a game with pitch hitters and pinch runners. It was a good team win."
The Dukes will now depart for an eight-game swing in the Jacksonville, Fla. vicinity. JMU will begin the trip Friday with a 7 p.m. game at North Florida.