GREENVILLE, S.C. – Matthew Lively drove in three runs and No. 8 seed The Citadel used a three-run eighth inning to down No. 5 seed VMI, 5-2, in the opening game of the 2023 Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases at Fluor Field on Wednesday.
With the win, the Bulldogs (23-29) advance to the double-elimination portion of the bracket and will face No. 4 seed ETSU on Thursday at 3 p.m. VMI sees its season come to an end at 26-29.
With the game knotted at 2 in the late innings, The Citadel plated three runs against its military rival to knock off the No. 5 seed in the first round for the second straight year.
Travis Elliott was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, forcing a pitching change for the Keydets. Wells Sykes followed with a bunt single and advanced to second on a throwing error that allowed Elliott to go to third, setting the stage for Lively’s bloop single, which dropped into shallow center field to plate Elliott with what would prove to be the winning run. One out later, Thomas Rollauer singled to right to drive in Sykes and Lively with some insurance runs.
VMI went down in order in both the eighth and ninth innings, with Gant Starling (2-2) getting a pair of strikeouts and a groundout in the ninth to shut the door.
The Keydets pushed across the game’s first run in the bottom of the first with some small ball. After Justin Starke worked a leadoff walk, a Cole Garrett single put runners on the corners. Trey Morgan then dropped a squeeze bunt to score Starke, but The Citadel starter Cameron Reeves got a pair of groundouts to escape further damage.
The Citadel pulled ahead in the top of the sixth with a two-out rally. Elliott got things going with a dribbler up the middle, followed by Sykes being hit by a pitch and Anthony Badala drawing a walk to load the bases. Lively, The Citadel’s 9-hole hitter, then singled through the right side to plate Elliott and Sykes to put the Bulldogs in front 2-1.
The Keydets wasted no time pulling even, again manufacturing a run in the bottom half of the sixth. After Morgan walked on four pitches to open the inning, Zac Morris reached on a bunt single and Cole Jenkins followed with a sacrifice bunt to put two runners in scoring position. Ty Swaim followed with a fielder’s choice to shortstop to drive in Morgan to make it 2-2.
Rollauer (3-for-5) and Elliott (3-for-4) both had three-hit days to pace The Citadel’s 12-hit attack. Six different players accounted for VMI’s six hits. All 18 hits in the contest were singles.
Starling worked the final 2 2/3 innings to pick up the win, allowing just one hit and getting eight outs against just eight batters faced. Reeves took the no-decision, allowing two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings.
VMI starter Nathan Light also did not factor into the decision, throwing 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing six hits. Will Riley (3-5) suffered the loss after allowing three runs on two hits in 2 1/3 innings, while Morgan worked the final two innings on the mound for VMI, allowing two runs on four hits.
2023 SoCon Championship presented by Holston Gases (Fluor Field; Greenville, S.C.)
May 24 (Wednesday)
Game 1: #8 The Citadel 5, #5 VMI 2
Game 2: #6 UNCG vs. #7 Western Carolina, 7 p.m.
May 25 (Thursday)
Game 3: #8 The Citadel vs. #4 ETSU, 3 p.m.
Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. #3 Wofford, 7 p.m.
May 26 (Friday)
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. #1 Samford, 9 a.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. #2 Mercer, 12:30 p.m.
Game 7: Loser Game 4 vs. Loser Game 5, 4 p.m.
Game 8: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 6, 7:30 p.m.
May 27 (Saturday)
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 12 p.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 3:30 p.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 10 vs. Loser Game 9, 7 p.m.
May 28 (Sunday)
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 11, 12 p.m.
Game 13: Game 12 winner vs. Game 12 loser^, 40 minutes after Game 12
Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.