LEXINGTON, Va., April 7, 2010 - Graham Sullivan's two-run double in the seventh pushed Virginia Military Institute past James Madison 3-2 in a non-conference baseball game on Wednesday night at Gray-Minor Stadium.
VMI, ranked 29th nationally by Collegiate Baseball, improved the nation's sixth-best winning percentage to 25-5 and snapped a three-game losing streak against the Dukes. JMU fell to 15-14 on the season and, combined with Tuesday's 9-4 setback at #4 Virginia, lost consecutive games for the first time since a doubleheader on March 12.
John Garrett earned the win in relief for the Keydets to improve to 4-0 after retiring all four batters faced in the seventh and eighth innings. Michael Devine picked up his sixth save with a scoreless ninth, stranding the tying run at second.
Junior starter Alex Valadja (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic) was tagged with the loss to fall to 1-3. He allowed three runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. Valadja left the game in the seventh with a 2-1 lead and two runners on with one out, however junior closer Kevin Munson (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring) blew the save, allowing the Sullivan two-run double. Munson struck out four.
Redshirt senior right fielder Matt Townsend (Lorton, Va./Hayfield) was 2-for-4 for JMU with a double, a home run, a walk, and a steal. Junior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) had two hits and a hit by pitch in four plate appearances. Senior third baseman Matt Browning (Mystic, Conn./Fitch) and redshirt junior first baseman Trevor Knight (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne's-Belfield) each had a pair of hits.
In addition to Sullivan's two-run double, first baseman Jordan Ballard was 3-for-4 for VMI with a pair of doubles. Catcher Alex Haitsuka had a pair of hits one night after his cycle against Longwood. Center fielder Ombri Rivers accounted for the third VMI run with a solo home run.
VMI grabbed the early lead in the second inning on the solo shot by Rivers.
The 1-0 margin held until the fifth when JMU put together a two-out rally. Senior second baseman Mike Fabiaschi (Torrington, Conn./Torrington) reached on an infield single. Townsend then smacked a two-run shot off the scoreboard in left to give the Dukes the lead. Singles by Knight, Browning, and Herbek loaded the bases, but a strikeout by sophomore catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) stranded all three.
In the VMI seventh, right fielder Jacob Morley led off with a double and shortstop Sam Roberts walked. After a fielder's choice resulted in runners on the corners with one out, JMU turned to Munson. The closer recorded a strikeout before Sullivan then smacked a two-run double to center on a no-ball, one-strike pitch.
With one out in the ninth, Townsend doubled to put the tying run in scoring position. However, sophomore pinch runner Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) was stranded after consecutive strikeouts by Knight and Browning.
JMU returns home this weekend for a three-game home series against William and Mary following a 3-3 six-game road swing. It will be a busy weekend at Veterans Memorial Park with Michael Jackson night for Friday's 6:30 p.m. game, grand opening ceremonies and special FanZone activities for Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game, and Justin Brown Day with activities for kids for Sunday's 2 p.m. game. More details on the grand opening and other promotions will be available on JMUSports.com on Thursday.
NOTES: JMU outhit VMI 10-9 but stranded 10 runners with 10 strikeouts... those numbers came one day after tying the JMU record with 18 strikeouts while stranding 16 at Virginia... the home run for Townsend was the 30th of his career to move within one of the all-time top 10... with his single in the third inning, Knight increased his current hitting streak to 19 games... Browning recorded his team-best 14th multiple-hit game and moved into a tie for ninth in career hits at JMU with 238, matching Kevin Nehring (1992-95) and Kellen Kulbacki (2005-07)... Browning also broke a tie for 10th in career total bases with 382, separating from Mark Brockell (1985-88)... Herbek's hit by pitch was the 29th of his career, which ranks him fourth in JMU history... JMU head coach Spanky McFarland was not in the dugout as conference rules require a one-game suspension following an ejection, which McFarland received Tuesday at Virginia.