Trailing 8-4, ETSU rallied with a three-run eighth inning but could not finish the comeback as the Keydets took the series opener.
VMI snapped a seven-game losing streak to ETSU, which had won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two schools. The Bucs slipped to 15-11 on the season and 2-5 in conference play, while VMI improved to .500 (14-14) and 4-3 in SoCon games.
The Bucs found themselves in a 5-0 hole after Will Malbon clubbed a solo home run in the third and a fourth-inning grand slam.
ETSU freshman David Beam had an answer for VMI’s middle man, nailing his first career home run to left center to make it 5-1. Later in the fourth, Aaron Maher continued chipping into the lead with a single up the middle to score Cade Gilbert.
Maher nearly had a three-run homer later in the eighth, but the ball barely hooked foul.
Beam would return in the next inning, jacking his second homer of the game into the exact same spot as his first one, scoring himself and Chris Cook trim the deficit to a run (5-4).
With Beam’s two-hit day, he improved to a team-high .389 batting average against Southern Conference pitchers. On the season, Beam is hitting exactly .300.
The Keydets answered with a three-run seventh to go up 8-4.
Coming off his first career win as a pitcher two days ago at Radford, sophomore Carter Linton entered in relief and threw two scoreless innings to keep ETSU in striking distance.
In the bottom of the eighth, Cullen Smith and Jackson Greer each drew walks to put leadoff runners on base. After VMI flied out the top two hitters in the order, Cook hit an RBI single to pull the Bucs within two runs.
In the next at-bat, after Nathan Eaton moved from third base to pitch in a save situation, Christian Bailey cracked an two-run double.
Eaton would retire Caleb Longley with a tough groundout to end the rally, then worked the ninth to garner his first save of the season.
Finishing with five RBIs, Malbon went 3 for 5 with a trio of runs. Eaton and Matt Dunlevy added 2-for-4 showings for VMI.
Relieving starter Josh Winder with one away in the bottom of the fifth, Corey Johnson (2-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless inning to snatch the win.
Cook batted 3 for 5 and scored twice while Gilbert followed at 2 for 4. Beam had three RBIs and two runs in his 2-for-5 day.
The two squads resume their three-game series Saturday at 2 p.m. inside Thomas Stadium.