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On Sunday, VCU’s baseball team was just one out and a mere two strikes away from breaking a seemingly unending, nine-game losing streak to Georgia State that stretches back seasons.
That, however, was as close as they were to come.
A rare, ninth inning meltdown by VCU’s most reliable closer, Robbie Andrews, (Covington/Alleghany) pinnacled when catcher Nate Furry (Salem/Salem) saw his attempted game-ending throw-out at third base, fly-over third basemen Joe Van Meter’s (Oyster Bay N.Y./Arizona State) head, allowing Georgia State to plate a runner and tie a chaotic game up at 14-14.
The game then took a turn for the bizarre when the match was declared a tie by the home-plate umpire after the tenth frame because NCAA regulations mandate that all travel itineraries be upheld, which applied to the Panthers, who were traveling by plane.
“Sometimes it happens on Sundays with teams that fly,” said VCU head coach Paul Keyes of the result. “We probably didn’t play good enough to win, so we’ll take a tie.”
The result drops VCU to 11-2-1 in the CAA, but the Rams retain first place because second place James Madison played out-of-conference opponent Kennesaw State this weekend and thus had their record remain unchanged.
The Rams originally were riding a season-high eight-game conference winning streak going into Friday’s home opener and were coming off one of their most impressive non-conference victories of the season after belting four home runs, including three from Van Meter, in an 11-4 victory over the Keydets.
However Georgia State were also on the back of good form, and were riding a seven-game winning streak of their own before seeing it snapped at the hands of in-state rival Mercer Wednesday night. Indeed the Panthers are almost undoubtedly the league’s strongest offensive unit, though they currently lie fourth in the standings, currently leading the nation in batting average and runs scored per game.
Game one: The Panthers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning off Rams pitcher Seth Cutler-Voltz (Richmond/Henrico) after runs from Brett Maxwell and Bradley Logan, who became Georgia State’s all-time leading hitter during the game after recording his second hit. VCU responded in the bottom portion of the frame by loading the bases, but the Rams couldn’t plate any men and still trailed by two. A fielding error proved extra costly in the second inning when a routine out gone-wrong resulted in three more runs for GSU, putting them up 5-0 in the early goings, and the Panthers rubbed salt in the Rams’ wound in the fourth, adding two more runs to put them up an insurmountable seven. VCU would add three runs in the final third of the game, but couldn’t make up for their less-than-adequate start on their way to losing 7-3. Cutler-Voltz took the loss for the Rams, leaving him with a record of 5-3.
Game two: The second game of the series got off to virtually the same exact start the first game had, with GSU taking a two-run lead in the first frame. VCU halved the Panther’s lead to one run in the third after a RBI double from Doug Otto (Jefferson City, Mo./Johnson County CC), however by the end of the fifth, Georgia State had added three more runs and were up 5-1. The Rams kept it close after senior Richie Gonzalez (Caguas, Puerto Rico/PRBA) plated a runner with an RBI single, however VCU’s pitching staff had no answer for the Panther’s powerhouse play, and succumbed to a further seven runs, including four in the ninth to rub salt in the Rams’ wound, to walk out 12-7 winners. The loss marked the Rams’ first conference series loss of the season after previously winning their encounters with Northeastern, William & Mary, Towson and Hofstra.
Game three: Unbelievably, Georgia State, for the third day running, scored two runs in the top of the first inning to leave the Rams once again trailing before they even got to bat. And for the second day running, VCU halved the lead in the bottom portion of the frame after senior Matt Leskiw (Plains, Pa./James) scored after a single before Brett Mikionis (Powhatan/Powhatan) belted a solo home run to tie the score at 2-2. The Panthers plated four runners over the next three innings to take a 6-2 lead, however VCU utilized a six-run fifth inning of their own to go up 8-2—their first lead of the entire series. In the sixth, VCU’s offense continued to click and the Rams got five more runs accordingly to go up by seven. Georgia State were not to be denied, though, and scored six runs over the seventh and eighth innings to pull within one before Furry’s aforementioned wild throw tied the game up in the ninth. With no teams scoring in the tenth, the home plate umpire called the game at 4:39 p.m., after the game eclipsed the NCAA’s mandated 4:30 p.m. stop-rule.
Post game: “We’ve got to do a better job in crunch time,” Keyes said. “A tie is obviously better than a loss; I told them they have to take it as a win.”
VCU will return to action Wednesday night when they face VMI in what will be their second-to-last home stand of the season.