It took a stressful doubleheader split, but the EMU baseball men earned an ODAC win and clinched at least a tie for sixth place in the ODAC standings. The Royals must wait until the completion of the regular season on Sunday to find out if they advance to the six-team ODAC Tournament for the first time since 2002.
By virtue of a 6-3 win at second-place Virginia Wesleyan Saturday afternoon, Eastern Mennonite finishes the regular season 10-10 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference to go with 16-16 overall. The men are currently in sixth place, a half game ahead of Lynchburg. The Hornets play a rescheduled game Sunday morning against Washington and Lee to finish the ODAC schedule. If LC wins, they would tie Eastern Mennonite for sixth, although it looks like the Royals may hold an edge in the tie-breaker system. The official ODAC Tournament bracket will be released Sunday afternoon.
This is just the 10th time in 39 years of ODAC baseball where EMU has finished with a record of .500 or better. The 10 victories tie the program record for conference wins, matching the 10-6 team from 2001.
The ODAC Tournament starts Thursday morning at City Stadium in Lynchburg.
Virginia Wesleyan 8, EMU 0
The Royals were shackled by VWC starter Sean Greiser (5-1) in the opener, as he allowed just two hits with nine strikeouts in 7.0 innings. The two relievers allowed just a single hit. The men only got one runner in scoring position in the game.
Powered by Matt Murray's two homeruns, the Marlins pounded out 16 hits. The game was close until VWC put up three spots in the sixth and seventh innings to produce the final margin.
Armstrong also started on the mound, giving up two runs in 4.2 innings to fall to 4-2. Aaron Hooven (Carroll, Va./Carroll County), normally the other weekend starter, pitched 2.0 innings and was tagged for five runs.
EMU 6, Virginia Wesleyan 3
After burning through both of his top starters in the opener, Coach Ben Spotts turned to sophomore Jake Brown (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) in the vital nightcap. The righty responded, allowing just four hits and one run through the first five frames.
Justin Rodriguez (Miramar, Fla./Monsignor Edward Pace) tied the game at 1-1 with a two-out double in the fourth. EMU's senior shortstop did the same thing in the top of the sixth, with his second RBI double giving the Royals their first lead of the day.
A leadoff double and walk in the bottom of the frame chased Brown, however, and Spotts turned to Austin Marzullo (Shippensburg, Pa./Shippensburg). Entering as one of the best relievers in the ODAC, Marzullo allowed an RBI single and then gave up the lead on a wild pitch.
But the bats came through for the Royals. Carroll drew a one-out walk in the seventh before Nic Love (Bedford, Va./Staunton River) reached on an error. Patrick Love (Bedford, Va./Staunton River) tied the score at 3-3 with a double. Griffin Stanley (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring) then executed a squeeze play with Nic Love coming in to put EMU back on top. Joe Hall (Gladys, Va./Rustburg) followed with an RBI single and the rejuvenated Royals suddenly had a 5-3 lead.
Marzullo gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the frame but got a groundball for a double play. The senior settled down and kept VWC off balance the rest of the way. That single turned out to be the last hit the Marlins would get, as Marzullo coaxed a collection of pop ups and fly balls. After the offense added an unearned run in their last at-bat, Marzullo struck out two batters in the ninth and got a ground ball to second to end the game.
Eastern Mennonite worked eight hits with three walks in the nightcap, and took full advantage of three VWC errors. Only two of EMU's six runs were earned. Rodriguez triggered the offense by going 3-3 with three doubles and a walk. He drove in the first two runs. Patrick Love was 3-4 with two runs and an RBI. Hall was 1-4 with a walk, scoring one run and knocking in another.
The Royals got a gritty pitching performance from Brown and Marzullo. Brown allowed three runs in 5.0+ innings. Marzullo, who has been key for EMU the past two weeks, improved to 2-2 with the win. He gave up two hits in 4.0 innings. The men have gone 4-2 over the past eight days, with Marzullo pitching in all four of the wins. He is 1-0 with two saves in those games.