EMU matched No. 11 Shenandoah hit-for-hit Wednesday in Harrisonburg. In the end, the Royals came up short of a major upset on a called third strike, dropping the ODAC contest by an 11-10 score.
It is the second one-run loss to the high-powered Hornets (26-6/12-3 ODAC) this season.
Despite doing a lot of things well, the men are left still searching for a watershed win to change the momentum of what has turned into a 12-game losing skid. Eight of those losses, including Wednesday, have come down to the final at-bat.
Eastern Mennonite (11-23/2-13 ODAC) hosts Hampden-Sydney in a doubleheader on Saturday, looking for their first win since March 25. The day is also designated as Alumni Recognition Day, as the Royals celebrate the 50th season in program history and welcome back many of their former players.
The start of Wednesday's game was as action-packed as the ending, with the two opponents combining to score in seven of their first eight at-bats.
After SU scored a single run in the top of the first, EMU struck quickly. Leadoff man Jacob Merica (Elkton, Va./East Rockingham) started with a walk and Daniel Scott (Moneta, Va./Staunton River) sent a laser into the corner in right for an RBI triple. Damon Frazier (Waynesboro, Va./Wilson Memorial) beat out an infield single to bring in Scott, and Frazier scored to make it 3-1 on a two-out error.
The Hornets jumped ahead with a three-spot in the second, but a two-out error in the bottom of the frame opened the door for Merica's RBI double, locking the score at 4-4.
Shenandoah scored three unearned runs over their next two frames to go up 7-4, but the Royals came back in the bottom of the fourth. Tyler Wilcher (Staunton, Va./Buffalo Gap) led off with a single and Tyler McFadden (Virginia Beach, Va./Salem) followed with his own base hit. After a sacrifice, Merica brought in one run with an infield single and Scott lofted a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to one.
Coach Ben Spotts looked to trip up SU's offensive flow in the fifth, bringing in closer Ryan Brewer (Martinsville, Va./Franklin County), and the move worked. Brewer sent the Hornets down in order, earning the first 1-2-3 inning for either pitching staff. In the sixth, Shenandoah bumped the margin to 8-6 on a solo homerun.
Scott pulled another pitch in the seventh, this time sending it over the wall in right for his third homerun of the year. Frazier followed with a big double and took third on a passed ball, but he was left stranded despite two EMU walks, as a caught stealing and fielder's choice ended the frame.
Shenandoah put the lead back at two with a two-out run in the eighth, and then plated two more in the ninth for what looked like a comfortable 11-7 lead.
But EMU had a not-so-secret weapon lined up for their final at-bat – the top of their order. Repeating what he had done in the first inning, Merica led off with a walk. Scott followed with a single to right. Frazier launched another double to right field, bringing in one run just three batters into the inning.
Jaylon Lee (Newport News, Va./Denbigh) then sent a grounder to the left side. SU's shortstop bobbled the ball before firing to first, and Lee was punched out on an arguable call. Despite the run coming home to make it 11-9, the speedy Lee was kept off the base paths. Another RBI groundout brought in Frazier and cut the lead to one, but also emptied the bases with two outs.
Freshman Corey Willis (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax) drew a walk to restart the rally and Wilcher was hit by a pitch to put the tying run in scoring position. However, McFadden was called out on strikes to end the game.
EMU's first three batters were the catalyst that allowed the Royals to keep up with Shenandoah and their hefty .356 team batting average. Merica, Scott and Frazier combined to bat 8-for-12 with two walks. The trio figured into all 10 of Eastern Mennonite's runs.
Scott had the biggest individual line, going 3-4 and missing the cycle by a double. He had three runs and three RBIs. Merica and Frazier each scored twice and drove in two.
Catcher John Judy (Shanks, W.V./Hampshire) reached twice with a single and walk, also collecting an RBI.
Tyler Campbell (Luray, Va./Luray) pitched the first four innings for the Royals and gave up seven runs to take the loss. Brewer allowed just one run in three innings of relief.