Baseball back on track following losing streak

Left-handed pitcher Matt Lees delivers one of 28 pitches he threw during VCU’s 11-6 win against Virginia Tech on Tuesday, April 8. Lees recorded four outs, but surrendered three earned runs on four hits, while striking out two Hokies in the victory. Photo by Brooke Marsh.

Alex Greer
Contributing Writer

Baseball is back on track following short slump.

With a 5-1 victory against the University of Richmond on Saturday, April 12, the VCU baseball team picked up its fifth win in six games following its season-worst three-game losing streak.

An extra-inning loss to Virginia Military Institute on Wednesday, April 2 capped the short skid for the Rams, who rebounded to take two of three from Saint Joseph’s University April 4-6. VCU then edged out Virginia Tech Tuesday, April 8 and topped the Spiders in the first two games of a weekend series this past Friday and Saturday.

Offense has been key in the Rams’ turnaround, as head coach Shawn Stiffler’s team has averaged 10 runs per contest in its last five victories.

VCU scored 19 runs in Friday’s victory over Richmond, but it was the team’s resiliency against the Hokies on Tuesday that might be most noteworthy.

After an off day the Rams welcomed Virginia Tech for a rematch of March 12’s wild 21-14 contest. The Hokies took a five-run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning, when VCU senior Bill Cullen broke up the shutout with his team-leading 32nd RBI on a single to left center.

After plating three more runs in the inning, the Rams entered the bottom of the eighth down by just one. There, Logan Farrar gave VCU the lead on a two-run triple on which he scored himself thanks to an SJU error. With the bases loaded, junior Vimael Machin gave VCU some much-needed breathing room with a bases-clearing double to right center.

Despite giving up three runs, pitcher Matt Lees earned his team-leading fifth win of the season. After the win, Stiffler said he liked what he saw from his team.

“It really shows a lot about our ball club and the resiliency we have to battle back down 5-0,” Stiffler told VCU Athletics.

Tuesday’s victory against Tech was the Rams’ second straight win following their brief slump. After  the loss to VMI, Stiffler’s squad bested conference rival St. Joe’s 10-3 on Friday, April 4 to get back in the ‘W’ column.

In that bounce-back performance, VCU wasted no time getting back on track, plating four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Junior Heath Dwyer pitched seven shutout innings, allowing only four hits en route to his third win of the season.

Cullen continued his strong season, collecting four more hits while he, Joey Cujas, Chris Ayers, and Matt Davis all had multiple RBI days. With a fifth-inning triple, Cullen also tied Erik Suave the VCU all-time triples record with 18 on his career.

After the win, Stiffler praised the performance by his seniors.

“That’s what you love to see as a coach, guys that have been in the program producing big when you need them,” he told VCU Athletics.

With their two wins against Richmond this past weekend, the Rams (24-7, 6-2 A10) moved back into second place in the conference standings, slotted just behind Saint Louis University (19-12, 7-2 A10).

VCU has 20 games remaining on its regular-season schedule, including two matchups against No. 1 University of Virginia.

Next up for the Rams is Norfolk State University this Wednesday before VCU welcomes La Salle University for a three-game series April 18-20.

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