HARRISONBURG, Va., March 24, 2010 - Trailing 8-2 after two and a half innings, James Madison went on a 15-1 scoring run over its next four turns at bat to rally for a 17-13 win over Virginia Military Institute in a non-conference baseball game on Wednesday night at Veterans Memorial Park.
With the win, JMU improved to 9-10 on the season. The Dukes closed their seven-game home stand with a 5-2 record and improved to 6-2 in their new park. VMI dropped the nation's third-best record to 18-3. The Keydets entered the game with the nation's third-best winning percentage and ranked 28th nationally by Collegiate Baseball.
JMU head coach Spanky McFarland stated after the win, "There are different ways to win games. Last night we pitched and played defense and got a few timely hits and it was enough to win. But tonight we didn't pitch as well and didn't play defense as well but we crushed the ball. So I think good teams find ways to win. Any win is a good win. The fact that they are 18-3 now didn't even cross our minds it was just trying to win the ball game. When they put up those seven runs, we kind of kicked it around there and gave them six or seven outs that innings and they scored seven runs but we answered right back with five. When we did that, when we answered, I thought we are going to win this ball game. It was nice to find our hitters."
After JMU scored two in the first, VMI responded with eight unanswered runs with one in the second and a seven-run third, thanks to eight hits and a JMU error. However, JMU came right back with five in the bottom of the frame and added seven in the fifth as well as three in the sixth while allowing just one VMI run in the middle innings. The 17-9 advantage withstood a four-run VMI seventh and a pair of threats in the final two innings.
The high-scoring affair on a Wednesday wasn't necessarily a surprise to McFarland. He noted, "When you play college baseball you play five games a week, depending on the week. So by the time Wednesday rolls around, we'll have some tired arms out there. We used all the same guys we used yesterday and the reason why they weren't effective was because it was their second or third time out there this week. Wednesdays are always going to a bit more high scoring than other games."
Freshman right-hander Nick Slogik (Strongsville, Ohio/St. Edward) picked up his first collegiate victory. He entered in the middle of the seven-run third and allowed two runs on four hits, but he settled down to allow just one hit the next two innings while JMU grabbed the 14-8 lead through five innings.
Junior closer Kevin Munson (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring), who earned the win on Tuesday against Maryland, picked up his fourth save of the season. He entered with runners on the corners in the eighth and escaped with a strikeout. Two runners reached in the ninth on a single and an error before another strikeout sealed the win.
Karter Rivera took the loss for VMI after allowing five runs, two of which were earned, on just two hits in two innings of work.
Both teams threw six pitchers in the contest that saw a combined 31 runs, 33 hits, 14 walks, and seven errors. All nine starters in the lineup for JMU had at least one hit while eight of VMI's nine starters recorded a hit.
Freshman Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) went 4-for-4 in the ninth spot with just one hit that left the infield. He had two bunt singles, a sacrifice bunt, and an infield single. Redshirt senior Brett Garner (Burke, Va./Lake Braddock) entered as a pinch hitter in the fifth and finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs, including a three-run home run. Sophomore catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) had two hits with a two-run home run and three RBIs. Redshirt junior first baseman Trevor Knight (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne's-Belfield) was 2-for-4 with a double, three runs, two RBIs, and a walk. Freshman left fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) also had two hits with a double, two runs, two RBIs, and two walks.
Left fielder Graham Sullivan and right fielder Jacob Morley each had three hits, two runs, and three RBIs for VMI with Sullivan smacking a three-run home run in the third. Second baseman Cory Spangenberg was 2-for-5 with a walk to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest in the nation by a freshman.
JMU wasted no time grabbing a 1-0 lead in the first as Bladel tripled off the foul pole in right on the first pitch of the game, missing a home run by about five feet. On the second pitch, Knight singled through the left side to plate Bladel for the quick advantage. Knight then stole second and moved to third on a strikeout that required a throw to first. Junior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) dropped in a pop single in right between the right fielder and second baseman to plate Knight for the 2-0 lead.
Just like the Dukes, VMI led off the second with a triple to right by Sullivan. With one out, he scored on a groundout by designated hitter Justin Topping.
The Keydets struck again in the third with a leadoff double by catcher Andrew Montague. He scored on a triple by shortstop Sam Roberts, who then gave VMI a 3-2 lead when he scored on a single by Spangenberg. After a walk, Sullivan smacked a three-run home run to right for a 6-2 VMI lead. After a JMU pitching change, the Keydets continued the onslaught with a double by first baseman Jordan Ballard and an RBI single by Topping. An error and a single loaded the bases, still with one out and a bunt single by Morley made it 8-2.
JMU put runners on the corners to lead off the third with a walk and a single. Freshman DH Matt Tenaglia (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) then lifted a sacrifice fly to left center for the third Dukes' run of the game. Lowery chased the starter, Coby Cowgill, from the game by smashing a two-run home run to right center, his third of the season. McInturff then reached on a two-out infield singled, stole second, and scored on a double to right by Bladel to pull the Dukes within an 8-6 score. Knight added a double to left to plate Bladel to cap the inning.
The game remained 8-7 until the fifth when senior second baseman Mike Fabiaschi (Torrington, Conn./Torrington) singled up the middle and McInturff reached on a bunt single. Both advanced on a double steal, and Bladel lifted a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game. After that, things got hectic for the Keydets on the field with three errors contributing to six more JMU runs scoring. McInturff scored from third on a failed pickoff play with the throw going to left field. Herbek reached on an RBI groundout with a throwing error. Consecutive RBI singles by Garner and Lowery added two runs and two more scored on a bunt single by McInturff and a wild pitch for a 14-8 JMU lead.
VMI added a run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Tanner Biagini for a 14-9 score. Biagini was the lone starter in the game for either team to not pick up a hit.
In the JMU sixth, after a hit batter and a walk, Garner blasted a three-run home run to right for a 17-9 JMU lead.
In the seventh, doubles by Ballard and center fielder Rob Dickinson for VMI in the seventh made it 17-10. A two-run double by Morley made it 17-12 and a wild pitch added another run at 17-13.
JMU will resume action in the Colonial Athletic Association with a three-game series this weekend at defending regular-season champion George Mason. Friday's opener will be a 3 p.m. first pitch.
NOTES: Browning's eighth-inning double was his 10th of the season and gave him 54 in his career to move into sixth in JMU history... the save for Munson was the 17th of his career to increase the JMU mark he already holds... the four season saves move him into the top 10 on the season chart for the second time.