Baseball topped by Terrapins in home opener

Senior infielder Zac Ching was 2-for-4 with a run scored against Maryland. Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics

Adam Cheek, Staff Writer

Baseball fell to Maryland 4-3 in the home opener Tuesday afternoon.

The Terrapins started the game off with a bang, racking up a single and a double in their first two at-bats, scoring the first batter.

VCU answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the first inning. After senior infielder Zac Ching singled up the middle, junior infielder Brett Norwood singled him to second. Ching and Norwood then stole second and third, after which junior infielder Paul Witt grounded out to second base to score Ching.

The Rams took the lead in the bottom of the third. Sophomore utility player Hogan Brown doubled to center, and a Ching sacrifice bunt advanced Brown to third. Witt then singled up the middle, tallying his second run batted in of the afternoon and giving the Rams a 2-1 advantage.

Maryland knotted up the game at two in the fifth, using a sacrifice fly to center to put another run on the board. The Terrapins added two more in the seventh and ninth, as an unearned run crossed the plate on a single to the left side. The difference-making run came in the ninth inning — a single to second allowed another run to score.

“They just did a good job of getting to second base in a few innings and getting a ground ball through the hole to score runs,” coach Shawn Stiffler said.

VCU came up in the bottom of the ninth, looking to rally, and started strong when Brown doubled to left field. Ching then flew out, advancing Brown to third. Norwood’s single to short scored Brown, bringing the Rams within a run. Norwood advanced to second on a passed ball, and Witt was hit by a pitch, but neither sophomore infielder Liam Hibbits nor junior infielder Steven Carpenter could tie the game, striking out and flying out to right, respectively.

Stiffler said he was frustrated by the outcome, stressing that the Terrapins’ pitching was VCU’s downfall.

“They threw nine guys and walked three [of our] guys,” Stiffler said. “Anytime you do that, it’s going to be tough for the other team to score.”

Stiffler also emphasized the defensive side of the ball was a point of improvement for the Rams.

“We want to work on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “We don’t care about the ball enough … we don’t protect it enough.”

VCU committed two errors against Maryland.

The Rams have scored 56 runs in seven games, batting a combined .318 and hitting seven homers.

VCU will play North Carolina Feb. 27 on the road and will return to The Diamond for a three-game series March 1-3 against Cornell.

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