Halfway through the conference slate two weeks ago, VCU was riding high on the back of an 11-1 start that saw the Rams storm to first place. Their opponents over those first 12 matches however, were a combined .500 and included the two statistically worst teams in the league.
Two weeks and two much better opponents later, the Rams have now won only one of their last six games and dropped out of first place for the first time since they gained it this past weekend after dropping two out of three games to UNC Wilmington in Wilmington, N.C.
The Rams got the weekend off to a superb start, rallying for a 4-3 win that was anchored by sophomore slinger Seth Cutler Voltz (Richmond/Henrico), who threw his third complete game of the season. However the Rams dropped the final two games of the series, and now sit 1.5 games behind James Madison with two conference games left to play in the regular season.
UNC Wilmington took the lead in the top of the third after senior Ben Thielsen singled to start the inning before eventually being driven in to go up 1-0.
The Seahawks then added two more in the fourth after Cutler-Voltz’ wild pitch allowed the second of the two runs to score, leaving VCU down 3-0.
The Rams cut into the lead in the fifth by scoring two runs of their own, with seniors Matt Leskiw (Plains, Pa./James) and Richie Gonzalez (Caguas, Puerto Rico/PRBA) driving in the runs. They then took the lead in the sixth when Greg Fujii (San Jose, Calif/San Jose City College) drove in two runs on a bases-loaded single.
The Seahawks would threaten mightily in the ninth, loading the bases before CAA homerun leader Robbie Monday stepped up to the plate however, the senior couldn’t deliver and left the Rams game one winner.
VCU gave up seven runs in the first inning and could never recover in the second game of the series.
Freshman pitcher Kyle Haynes (Chesterfield/Manchester) allowed five of Wilmington’s first six batters to reach, culminating in four runs off of five hits.
The Rams responded in the top of the second with three runs to bring them within one. With the bases loaded, sophomore Paul Nice (Powhatan/Powhatan) delivered an RBI groundout before catcher Taylor Perkins (Dinwiddie/Dinwiddie) drove in two more.
However, for all intents and purposes, the Seahawks ended the game their next time up to bat with three more runs. Red-shirt junior Mike Graham came on in relief of Haynes but fared no better than the freshman, walking in a run on his first batter faced before giving up a further two.
VCU would scatter two more runs in the game’s final seven innings but couldn’t recover from their slow start to even out the series at 1-1.
In the series’ rubber match on Sunday, VCU took the lead in the top of the third after Gonzalez and fellow senior Doug Otto (Jefferson City, Mo./Johnson County CC) drove in two runs to give the Rams the advantage.
Wilmington would halve the lead in the third when they earned a run off freshman Ryan Farrar (Mechanicsville/Atlee), who was making his first conference start of his career. The Seahawks then took the lead for good in the fifth after plating three runs to go up 2-4.
Perkins would drive in a run for VCU to get the Rams within one in the top of the seventh but Wilmington closed the door in the bottom of the frame when they responded with a further three runs to go up 7-3.
Farrar finished the game with four runs given up on four hits in five innings pitched, but the southpaw only allowed one run in the first four innings.
With the loss on Sunday, the Rams dropped their second series in a row after winning their first four to start the season.
VCU will return to action on Tuesday when they go to Charlottesville to face what will surely be their toughest opposition of the season in No. 1 UVA.