Charleston Southern's Ryan Gunther had a career high 10 strikeouts and shutdown VMI in a 6-4 win in a split of a Big South doubleheader on Saturday at CSU Ballpark. VMI rallied for a 4-2 win in extra innings in the opener.
The Bucs move to 13-22 overall and 4-7 in Big South play, while VMI is 18-20 overall and 5-6 in conference play.
Gunther picked the Bucs up after a tough 4-2 loss in extra innings in the opener, a game the Bucs controlled for seven innings. His offense gave him some cushion to work with as well, battering VMI for six early runs.
"We needed that start and he gave us a quality one," CSU head coach Stuart Lake said. "He really competed when we needed it and carried us in that second game."
The Bucs got two quality starts on Saturday, as Gunther and Tory Schroff combined for 15 innings of work and 17 strikeouts. CSU couldn't put the Keydets away in the opener though, missing opportunities to extend a 2-0 lead.
"It was frustrating," Lake said of the opener. "VMI is a good team, but I felt like we needed to capitalize offensively more in the first game. I thought Tory pitched great, but they got what they needed late."
Lake's squad showed some toughness in game two, roaring out of the gates in a win that wasn't tight until the final two outs.
"The response in the second game was huge for us," Lake said. "We need to get ourselves up off the mat. I'm proud of the way our guys responded. The (Big South) tournament is a big deal for the coaches and players in this league, and to get there, you have to win home games and come away with series wins. We've got to come out ready to play tomorrow."
Game 1 - VMI 4, Charleston Southern 2 (10 inn.) VMI rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force extra innings and went on to win, 4-2, after piling up four hits in the top of the 10th.
VMI's Jordan Tarsovich and Cameron Walter both had RBI singles in the extra frame as the Keydets scored all four of their runs in their final four at-bats. Reliever John Garrett (WP, 3-2) came on to work a perfect 10th for VMI to close out the win.
CSU broke out to an early lead with a run in each of the first two innings, but couldn't add to their lead, stranding nine runners.
The Bucs scored first on a leadoff single by Kevin Hickey. He would come around to score on three wild pitches from VMI starter Connor Bach, who settled down and worked eight solid innings after a rocky start.
CSU added a run in the second as Robbie Streett singled and scored on an RBI ground out from Jaren Sustar to move the Bucs ahead, 2-0.
The rally spoiled a quality start from the Bucs' Tory Schroff. The junior allowed eight hits and one earned run in eight innings of work while striking out seven, but didn't factor into the decision.
The Keydets lone run off of Schroff came on a solo home run by Dickinson in the seventh.
Street and Alex Tomasovich each had two hits to lead the CSU attack. Tarsovich and Dickinson each had three hits to lead VMI.
Game 2 -
Gunther (WP, 4-4) surrendered only an unearned run and scattered five hits to lead the Bucs in the win in the nightcap. His 10 strikeouts were the most of his career and the most by a Buc this season.
The senior took a 6-1 lead into the eighth before VMI put a scare into the Bucs in the final inning as Kyle Dyson gave up four runs, but was victimized by a couple of errors behind him on routine ground balls.
Freshman Andrew Tomasovich came on to pick up a one-pitch save, the first of his career.
Fortunately for the Bucs, CSU started fast, racing to a 6-1 lead after four innings.
The Bucs took a 1-0 lead as Zack Hagaman singled home Kevin Hickey, who walked to open the game. It was the beginning of a 3-for-4 afternoon from Hagaman.
The Bucs added two runs in the third as Brian Welch's two-run single capped a two-out rally by the Bucs. Alex Tomasovich and Hagaman both singled and Drew Woodall drew a walk to load the bases for Welch. He delivered with a ground ball back up the middle to make it 3-0 Bucs.
Bobby Ison added to the lead in the fifth with his second home run of the season. The sophomore ripped an offering from VMI starter Campbell Henkell out to right to make it 5-1 Bucs. Welch would add an RBI double in the fifth for his third RBI of the game.
VMI rallied in the ninth, putting the tying runs on base after the Bucs opened the inning with a 6-2 lead. A pair of errors by the Bucs tightened things up for the first time, but Tomasovich got Cameron Walter to fly out to shallow right to end the game.
Dickinson led VMI with two hits in the second game. He was 5-for-10 on the day.
The two teams wrap up their series tomorrow at 2 p.m. at CSU Ballpark.