Royals Clinch ODAC Tourney Bid With 12-2 Win At VWU

Jordan Jones (center) has scored 13 runs over EMU's last 7 games. (photo by Scott Eyre)
Jordan Jones (center) has scored 13 runs over EMU's last 7 games. (photo by Scott Eyre)

The Royals are going back to the ODAC Tournament.

EMU's baseball men controlled the final game of Saturday's doubleheader at Virginia Wesleyan, using a 12-2 win over the Marlins to clinch a spot in the eight-team postseason field. For the Royals, it's just their second trip to the ODAC Tournament since the Erik Kratz era ended after 2002.

Eastern Mennonite also made the postseason in 2015, using the same path of a season-ending win at Virginia Wesleyan.

The Royals (16-21-1/10-12 ODAC) clinched the No. 8 seed in the ODAC Tournament, and expect to head to Randolph-Macon for a best-of-three series next weekend. The two teams split their regular season series, each winning a game in Harrisonburg on April 6.

The 10 wins in ODAC play also ties the program record, held by the 2001 and 2015 teams.

Virginia Wesleyan 19, EMU 8
The men started the day off on the right foot, with sophomore Jaylon Lee (Newport News, Va./Denbigh) crushing a three-run homer in the top of the first inning off All-ODAC First Team pitcher Jacob Pilarski.

The momentum would not hold, however, as the Marlins (19-15/13-9 ODAC) got a two-out two-run home run in the bottom of the first before batting around in the second. VWU added four more runs in that frame to jump ahead. Two more in the third made it 8-3.

Zach Roberts (Stuarts Draft, Va./Riverheads) laced a two-run single up the middle with two outs in the fourth, but the Marlins batted 10 men in the bottom of the fourth, touching home six times to blow open a 14-5 margin.

EMU got RBIs from Robert Guenther (Falls Church, Va./George C. Marshall), Jacob Merica (Elkton, Va./East Rockingham) and Brett Lindsay (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) in a three-run eighth, but they didn't have enough to slow down Virginia Wesleyan's offense in the game.

The men put together 12 hits in the opener and bumped Pilarski's ERA from 3.76 to 4.36. Senior Daniel Scott (Moneta, Va./Staunton River) batted 3-5 and scored twice. Roberts was 1-3 with two walks and accounted for three runs. Lindsay had a pair of hits, scoring once and driving in another.

Bailey Hall (Daleville, Va./James River) started and took the loss, giving up the first six runs. Each of EMU's six pitchers allowed at least one run.

EMU 12, Virginia Wesleyan 2
The nightcap was about freshman pitcher Connor Lutz (Colonial Beach, Va./Colonial Beach) dominating on the hill, while the offense made and took advantage of opportunities. Lutz struck out seven in the team's first complete game of the year. The bats, meanwhile, combined 12 hits with eight walks and seven stolen bases as they scored in five different innings.

EMU made a quick strike in the top of the first, starting when Roberts slapped a one-out single up the middle. He promptly stole second and came around to score when Lindsay singled.

Scott started a four-run frame in the second with a leadoff single. Jordan Jones (Saxe, Va./Randolph Henry) hit an RBI single and Ray Tricarico (Culpeper, Va./Eastern View) had a bases loaded single to bring home two. Another run scored when Lee reached on an error, making it 5-0.

Tricarico added a two-out RBI double in the fourth for a 6-0 lead.

Lutz, meanwhile, had faced only 14 batters through the first four innings, never allowing more than one baserunner per frame.

The Marlins finally made some noise in the fifth, getting a solo home run. Another solo shot in the sixth got them within 6-2.

But Lutz settled down again, at one point retiring eight straight batters. VWU mounted a slight two-hit rally in the ninth before Lutz closed the door.

By then, of course, the offense had padded the lead in a big way. Scott pulled a two-run single in the seventh. The men then walked the bases loaded to start the eighth. Lee chased home the first run with a sacrifice fly before Corey Willis (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax) lofted a two-run double and Scott slapped the final RBI single for the 12-2 score.

Lutz improved to 4-1 with his 96-pitch gem. He scattered eight hits, only twice allowing two hits in a single inning, while striking out a season-high seven batters. EMU has won each of Lutz's last four starts.

Tricarico racked up four hits, including two doubles, as he drove in three and score once. Scott batted 3-5 with RBIs and a run. Normally a late-inning defensive replacement, Scott earned the start in both games and batted a combined 6-for-10 with three runs and three RBIs.

Willis was 2-4 with two RBIs and a run. Jones had a single and two walks, stealing three bases and scoring three runs. Roberts also had a single and two walks.

Season Stats
EMU's offense continues to run at a record-setting clip, having already broken two program records. As a team, the Royals have drawn an ODAC-leading 185 walks heading into the postseason. The previous EMU record was 151 walks, held by the 2000 and 2016 teams. Nine men have at least 12 walks, headed by 22 from Roberts and 21 from Lindsay. 10 total steals on Saturday, the team also bumped their season total to 69 stolen bases, sliding past the 2017 record of 68. Jones has 15 swipes while Roberts has 13.