EMU's baseball men nearly earned a sweep of nationally ranked Randolph-Macon on Saturday, instead settling for a split on Senior Recognition Day.
The Royals won the opener in walk-off fashion before dropping the nightcap by a slim margin, out-hitting R-MC on the day. Eastern Mennonite settled at 16-16 overall and 4-10 in the ODAC. With six conference games left, all on the road, the Royals sit two full games behind Roanoke (6-8) for the sixth and final spot in the ODAC Tournament. Four other teams sit between EMU and Roanoke, meaning the men need a lot of breaks to go their way to get in.
After hosting a rescheduled game against Southern Monday afternoon, the Royals will get back to work in conference, playing at Shenandoah and Bridgewater, along with doubleheaders at Hampden-Sydney and Lynchburg to close the year.
EMU 6, No. 13 Randolph-Macon 5
After lengthy pregame Senior Day ceremonies honoring all 12 of EMU's seniors, the visiting Yellow Jackets made a quick first sting with a two-out RBI single in the top of the first.
Ryan Hedrick (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) hit a leadoff triple in the second and scored on a single from Kyle Mathews (Chesapeake, Va./Great Bridge), and Matthews scored an unearned run in the fourth on Kyle Salladay's (Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield) two-out single, putting EMU in front, 2-1.
A leadoff double in R-MC's next at-bat turned into a two-run frame which flipped the Yellow Jackets back in the lead, but Mathews crushed a shot to left center in the sixth to tie things up at 3-3.
Then starting in the bottom of the seventh, the two teams started an epic streak of scoring.
Damon Frazier (Waynesboro, Va./Wilson Memorial_ hit a two-out RBI single to give the Royals the lead before R-MC tied it with back-to-back leadoff hits in the eighth. Ryan Brewer (Martinsville, Va./Franklin County) replaced Frazier on the hill and worked out of the jam, leaving two runners on base.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Salladay scored all the way from first on a single from Dean Lowery (Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield), touching home before Lowery was cut down trying to get back to first base.
Randolph-Macon got a leadoff single in the ninth and tied it once again with a two-out hit. The Royals kept coming, however, as Joe Hall (Gladys, Va./Rustburg) punched a one-out single to get things rolling. Finally with the bases loaded, Hedrick dumped a hit into left as his fellow senior sprinted in for the walk-off win.
Mathews was one of five men to have two hits, as the first baseman also had two RBIs and two runs. Griffin Stanley (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring), Hall, Zach Roberts (Stuarts Draft, Va./Riverheads) and Hedrick each had two hits as well, as all nine of EMU's batter reached base safely.
Frazier pitched seven strong innings, striking out seven in a no-decision. Brewer earned his first win of the year with two innings in relief.
No. 13 Randolph-Macon 9, EMU 7
The nightcap turned into another wild affair, even with Randolph-Macon leading much of the game.
Eastern Mennonite scored first on an RBI groundout from David Meehan (Virginia Beach, Va./Salem) in the second. The Yellow Jackets capitalized on their three hits to plate four runs in the third, but the Royals came marching back. Mathews and Salladay each had RBIs in the fourth, before Hall pulled his third homerun of the season down the left field line to tie the score at 4-4 in the fifth.
Randolph-Macon got a pair of two-out RBI singles in the sixth to get back in front, 6-4.
In the seventh, Lowery led off with a walk, worked his way to third, and came in when Roberts singled, cutting the margin in half.
But the Yellow Jackets took charge in the ninth, started by a leadoff single. A three-run homer later, the visitors had a 9-5 cushion.
Eastern Mennonite rallied in the bottom of the ninth, scoring twice with two away, but the margin was too much to overcome.
The Royals out-hit R-MC 13-8 in the game, but issued six costly walks along with a couple of hit batters. Jake Brown (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) pitched 5.2 innings, allowing only five hits but six runs and four walks. Tristan Childress (Waynesboro, Va./Waynesboro) had an effective 1.2 of relief.
Hall and Hedrick each batted 3-5 and combined to account for five runs. Roberts finished 2-4 with a walk, scoring a run and driving in another. Mathews also had a pair of hits.
The Royals celebrated their huge senior class of 12 men, a group which was Coach Ben Spotts first recruiting class and quickly helped change the culture of EMU baseball. As sophomore in 2015, the group spearheaded the Royals' return to the ODAC Tournament for the first time in 13 years.
The group also forms the core of this year's team: Dean Lowery (Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield), Stanley, Ian Norris (Virginia Beach, Va./Salem), Hedrick, Hall, Mathews, Brown, Brandon Trujillo (Virginia Beach, Va./Salem), Meehan, Josh Sydenstricker (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), Salladay and Kyle Johnson (Nathalie, Va./Rustburg).