First-place VCU are already half way through their conference slate, but this weekend’s three-game match up versus Georgia State may well pose the squad’s first true test of the season.
The Rams, predicted to finish seventh in the CAA Preseason Coaches’ Poll after last season’s 10th place finish , have taken the league by storm and surprise, posting an 11-1 record with 12 games remaining. However the combined record of the conference foes already faced is a feeble 15-30, and two of the four teams represent the two worst (statistically) in the league.
“I guess you have to say lucky stars there (to play worse teams first),” said sophomore Andrew Phillips, who covers the team for VCUAthletics.com. “Regardless of the schedule you’re dealt, you still have to go out and win games.”
The Rams come into the series on the back of one of their most scintillating non-conference wins of the season after defeating VMI 11-4 Tuesday in Lexington.
The win is no mean feat for a couple of reasons: VMI are in the midst of an outstanding season and received their first ever national ranking last week when they were ranked 26th, and VCU redshirt-junior Joe Van Meter (Oyster Bay N.Y./Arizona State) tied a school record with three home-runs.
Van Meter has been VCU’s utility man and superman simultaneously this season, hitting a team best .384 with a .589 slugging percentage. Van Meter went 4-4 versus the Keydets and scored seven runs with seven RBIs.
“I think (Van Meter) knows he’s going to have to be one of the biggest bats on the team if they’re going to be successful,” Phillips said. “I don’t think he necessarily puts a bunch of pressure on himself, he just comes through for the team.”
When the Rams take to the field in the first game of the set Friday night, they’ll face a GSU team that’s facing a role reversal to their current fortune. Last season, the Panthers finished second in the conference with a mark of 12-9 before winning the CAA Championship in postseason play.
This year Georgia State is only 5-4 in the conference, leaving them in sixth place heading into weekend action. However the Panthers are on a bit of a revival, and
posted a 4-1 record last week overall including a 2-0 sweep of Air Force.
They also have many players leading important statistical hitting categories, while no player VCU makes the top-10 in almost all of them. Junior outfielder Ryan Fleming
leads the CAA in home-runs with 12, he’s also one of three GSU players on the top five in RBIs, although he’s not one of their three players in the top five of batting
“They’re supposed to be a good hitting team; The Diamond is not supposed to be a hitter friendly park, so maybe that will play true this weekend,” Phillips said. “This
weekend will be a big test.”
VCU (11-1) vs. Georgia State (5-4)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m.