GREENVILLE, S.C. – The Wofford College baseball team defeated VMI 12-7 in the opening round of the 2019 Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases at Fluor Field on Wednesday night. The Terriers had a 4-1 lead after the first inning and both teams added a run in the second frame. Wofford scored five runs in the sixth inning for a 10-2 advantage, but VMI answered with five runs in the eighth inning to cut the lead to 10-7. The Terriers added two runs in the eighth for the final margin.
Wofford, the #2 seed in the tournament, is 34-23 on the season and #7 seed VMI is 17-40 overall. The Terriers won their opening game in the tournament for the second straight season and advance to play ETSU on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Mike Brown led the team with three hits, three stolen bases and three runs scored, while Alec Cargin added three RBIs. Austin Higginbotham earned the win with seven strikeouts. The Keydets were led by Josh Hollifild with three hits and Ryan Hatten with three RBIs.
The Keydets opened the game with a single and with one out a batter reached on an error that put the runners in scoring position. A ground out plated a run before a strikeout ended the top of the first with VMI holding a 1-0 lead. Mike Brown led off for the Terriers with a strikeout and wild pitch to reach first base. Brett Rodriguez walked and Hudson Byorick was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A fielder’s choice had Brown out at home plate before a single by John Dempsey scored Rodriguez to tie the game at 1-1. With two outs and the bases loaded, a single by Alec Cargin cleared the bases for a 4-1 lead.
With two outs in the top of the second, the Keydets had a batter hit by a pitch and he scored on a double down the left line to make it a 4-2 game. Mike Brown singled with one out for the Terriers in the bottom of the second. He stole second and third base, while Hudson Byorick walked with two outs. Byorick stole second and then a balk advanced the runners for a 5-2 score. The Keydets led off the third inning with back-to-back singles. After two strikeouts, a Wofford fielding error had the bases loaded. A fly ball ended the scoring chance. Wofford was retired in order to end the third inning.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Keydets had two outs when a batter walked. The runner was stranded at second after a ground out. Wofford went in order in the bottom of the fourth. VMI had a double with one out in the top of the fifth inning. Colin Davis made a diving catch in center field for the second out and a ground out ended the top. Hudson Byorick singled with one out in the bottom of the fifth, but the Keydets turned a double play to end the inning.
Austin Higginbotham struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning. John Dempsey singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth and Colin Davis reached on a fielding error of a sacrifice bunt. A double down the left line by Andrew Orzel scored Dempsey for a 6-2 lead. Reed Massey reached on an error that allowed two runs to score as Wofford had an 8-2 advantage. Mike Brown added a single after a pitching change and he stole second base, his third steal of the game. A single by Brett Rodriguez drove in Massey and Brown to make it a 10-2 game.
The Keydets were retired in order in the top of the seventh. Lawson Hill walked to begin the bottom of the seventh but was caught stealing second to end the inning. Back-to-back singles started the eighth inning for VMI. A fielder’s choice had runners on the corners when a home run by Ryan Hatten cleared the bases to cut the lead to 10-5. With two outs and two runners on base after walks a double drove in both runners for a 10-7 score. A ground out ended the top of the eighth.
Wofford had one out in the bottom of the eighth when Andrew Orzel walked. A triple off the wall in left center by Mike Brown scored Orzel and then Brown scored on a throwing error on the play for a 12-7 advantage. A double by the Keydets led off the top of the ninth inning. After a strikeout, the runner moved to third on a wild pitch. A fly ball and strikeout ended the game.
Austin Higginbotham (9-3) started for the Terriers and went seven innings with one earned run allowed on five hits. He issued one walk and had seven strikeouts. He now has 251 career strikeouts to rank seventh in school history and his 21 career wins are tied for sixth in school history. Anthony Garcia threw two-thirds of an inning with five runs allowed on three hits and two walks. Ty Reginelli gave up a hit. Reece Maniscalco earned his fifth save of the season by going the final 1.1 innings with one hit allowed and two strikeouts.
VMI starter Zak Kent (5-5) threw 5.1 innings with nine runs allowed on six hits, along with two strikeouts and two walks. Adam Jewell went the final 2.2 innings with three runs allowed on three hits and three strikeouts.
Wofford will play on Thursday against #6 seed ETSU at 7:30 p.m. at Fluor Field. The Bucs defeated #3 seed UNCG 4-2 on Wednesday to advance.