Two costly Florida errors, ten men left on base, and solid pitching performances by junior Trey Barnham and the VMI bullpen carried the Keydets to a 5-3 victory over the Gators before 3,856 at McKethan Stadium Friday night.
Barnham (1-0) combined with three VMI relievers (Corey Bachman, Ian Cashen, and Kevin Crum) to allow just three earned runs, while fanning seven Florida batters. Barnham limited the Gators to single base runner in the first three innings. He seemingly picked up where he left off in ’06, when he led the Big South Conference with an opponent batting average of just .222. He also ranked among the top five in the league in strikeouts (98), and ERA (3.53).
“They did a great job all night of getting ahead of everybody,” Florida shortstop Jon Townsend said. “They kept everybody off balance. He (Barnham) kind of hid the ball behind his head. It was sneaky fast as we like to call it. He was moving the ball in and out. The ball had a lot of run on it. His slider kept us way off balance and he threw a couple of good change-ups.”
Barnham out dueled Florida ace Bryan Augenstein (0-1), who started the game by throwing eight of his first nine pitches for strikes. However, the junior struggled to contain the Keydets in the fifth and suffered the loss. Seven different VMI hitters collected the Keydets eight hits.
“I don’t feel that I did that well,” Augenstein said. “I didn’t locate the ball. I didn’t keep my delivery intact very well…I was out in front a little bit. Just little minor adjustments. I’ll be able to work through. I felt good at first. I don’t know what happened. I was drifting a little bit in my delivery and getting the ball elevated a little more.”
VMI wasted little time taking the lead. Augenstein hit right fielder Eddie Van Es with a pitch to start the second inning. The Keydets return seven starters from the 2006 squad that led the nation with 119 hit batters.
Van Es scored one pitch later on designated hitter Ryan Litz’ double between the gap in right/center. Van Es scored on the play. Florida right fielder Brian Leclerc got a bad jump on the ball, which allowed it to go past him to the fence. One batter later center fielder Justin Hess singled on a bunt, which moved Litz to third. However, left fielder Will Smith hit the ball hard to the mound. It was fielded cleanly by Augenstein, who turned and threw to Townsend who steeped on the bag and fired to first baseman Matt LaPorta for the double play. Two batters later, shortstop Chad Rice grounded out to third baseman Brandon McArthur. VMI had taken a 1-0 lead.
Florida had a golden opportunity in the fourth inning. Second baseman Cole Figueroa led off with a single to center field. LaPorta was walked and catcher Cody Neer hit into a fielder choice, which moved Figueroa to third base. Designated hitter Jared Kubin then singled to third base to load the bases with one out. Unfortunately, Brian Leclerc struck out looking at an 0-2 pitch. McArthur followed with a fielder’s choice, which saw Neer out at third.
The Keydets exploded in the fifth. With one out, Rice reached on an error by LaPorta. A.J. Yoder followed with a single to center field. With men on the corners, Crumpler singled to right field scoring Rice. Michael Roberts singled to left field scoring Yoder. Van Es reached on a fielder’s choice. Pinch hitter Thomas Hayden reached on a fielding error by Townsend, which scored Van Es and Crumpler. VMI extended their lead to 5-0.
The Gators scored their first run of the season in the bottom half of the fifth inning. With one out, Townsend hit a slider on a 1-2 pitch that quickly left the park easily clearing the left field fence. Florida stranded Figueroa and LaPorta in the inning.
It was much of the same for the Gators in the bottom of the sixth. With two out, McArthur ripped the first pitch over the left field fence to close the gap to 5-2. Once again, the Gators left two men on base.
VMI went to closer Kevin Crum in the bottom of the ninth. Leadoff hitter Avery Barnes and Figueroa each singled to start the inning. However, LaPorta grounded into a double play to short, scoring Barnes. Neer hit the first two out pitch to short to end the game.
Florida collected 12 hits in the game. Pinch hitter Jonathan Piggot led all Florida hitters with a 2 for 2 performance. Townsend and LaPorta each went 2 for 4 in the game. Figueroa went 2 for 5 tonight.
Closer Josh Edmondson pitched three consecutive innings to close the game out. He allowed only on hit, while striking out one.
“We played well as a team,” Augenstein said. “Everybody was on the top step trying to pull everybody thought the whole game. It just doesn’t always work out on the scoreboard.”
The Gators will once again be back in action at McKethan Stadium tomorrow. Southpaw Stephen Locke is expected to make his return to the mound for the Gators. First pitch is scheduled for 2pm.