Two days after the VCU baseball team dominated Norfolk State University 13-1, the Rams lost a tough conference match up against La Salle University 6-3 on Friday, April 18.
The defeat dropped VCU’s record to 7-4 in the Atlantic 10 and 26-9 overall.
The Rams and Explorers traded runs in the first inning, but La Salle’s three-run third inning helped hand VCU junior starting pitcher Heath Dwyer his first loss of the season. Dwyer walked seven batters and surrendered a season-high six earned runs on five hits in five innings of work, but it was the Explorers’ bullpen that dictated the outcome of the game.
Head coach Shawn Stiffler’s team cut a five-run deficit to three in the sixth inning. However, La Salle’s Tom Fazzini, Adam Cherry and Shawn O’Neill combined to hold the Rams scoreless in the game’s final three innings. Together, the trio failed to allow a single VCU hit or walk, while recording two strikeouts.
After the game, Stiffler told VCU Athletics his team simply wasn’t prepared to face a tough La Salle pitching staff.
“For the first time this year, we were not ready to go from the first pitch to the last,” Stiffler said. “A lot of credit goes to La Salle, their pitcher did a good job of throwing strikes and mixing in his off-speed stuff.”
VCU’s only other game last week came Wednesday against a Norfolk State squad that struggled to keep pace with the Rams. On Military Appreciation Night, Stiffler’s team showed remarkable patience at the plate, drawing nine walks and two hit-by-pitches to help bolster the offense.
The Rams struck early, scoring two runs in the first off junior Vimael Machin’s sacrifice fly and freshman Matt Davis’ bases-loaded single.
VCU scored at least one run in each of the first five innings, and Machin collected a total of four RBIs on the game, two of which came on a two-run homer in the third inning.
In the fourth inning, the Rams scored five runs, highlighted by RBI doubles from sophomore James Bunn and senior Bill Cullen. The following frame, VCU was able to take advantage of some wild Spartans pitches, scoring three runs on five walks and a hit-batter. Every Rams starter reached base at least once during the contest.
Junior starting pitcher Daniel Concepcion picked up his fourth win of the season after allowing just two hits through four-plus innings pitched. VCU relievers Matt Jammer and Seth Greene combined to throw two scoreless innings in relief, and the game was called after seven innings.
Following the victory, Stiffler said he was pleased with a complete team performance.
“Offensively, I thought we did a great job of piecing together at bats and taking advantage of their mistakes,” Stiffler told VCU Athletics. “It was a great win heading into a conference series this weekend.”
Prior to Wednesday’s blowout, VCU dropped the series finale of a three-game set at cross-town rival University of Richmond.
After taking the first two games on Friday and Saturday, the Rams fell victim to some persistent Spiders offense last Sunday. Richmond struck early when Matt Dacey took VCU junior starting pitcher JoJo Howie deep for a three-run home run in the first inning.
The Spiders added a solo shot in the second to take an early 4-0 lead, but the Rams fought back to tie the game in the sixth on a three-run homerun from Davis, the first of his collegiate career.
Unfortunately for VCU, the Spiders responded with a three-run sixth inning of their own, knocking Howie out of the game and Richmond never relinquished the lead.
The Rams trimmed the lead to one in the seventh, but two Richmond runs in the bottom half of the frame helped seal VCU’s eighth loss of the season.
Despite failing to secure a series sweep, Stiffler told VCU Athletics he was happy with his team’s resiliency.
“I was happy with the way we fought back all day,” Stiffler said. “[Richmond] came out ready to go and it showed from the first inning on. Our guys did a good job clawing back but we just couldn’t get the big pitch to get out of the jams.”
VCU wrapped up a three-game series with La Salle this past Saturday and Sunday, but the results weren’t final as of press time.
Next up for the Rams is No. 1 University of Virginia on Tuesday, April 21. Following its match up with the nation’s top-ranked team, VCU will travel to the University of Rhode Island for a three-game series April 25-27.
Another former Ram joins big league ball club
More than two weeks after former VCU baseball standout Ian Thomas was named to the Atlanta Braves’ opening day roster, the New York Yankees called up former Ram Scott Sizemore to join the Major League ball club. Sizemore, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Detroit Tigers in 2006, played at VCU from 2003-05. He joined the Yankees Tuesday, April 15 having played 160 games for the Tigers and Oakland Athletics during a three-year major-league career. Despite sporting a .238 career average, Sizemore has been a pleasant surprise for New York in four games with the club. The utility infielder was hitless in three at-bats in his Yankees debut on April 16, but went 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored in the second half of a day-night double-header with the Chicago Cubs last Wednesday. Sizemore followed up his impressive performance with a pair of doubles in New York’s first two games of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays this past weekend. Perhaps his brightest moment in pinstripes thus far came in Friday’s loss to the Rays, when Sizemore plated three runs with his bases-clearing double in the top of the second inning. The Yankees (10-7) have won three of four with Sizemore on the team and five of six overall. Prior to being called up to the big leagues, Sizemore batted .344 with five RBI for New York’s AAA affiliate, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders.