Ryan Grube, Contributing Writer
Baseball dropped two games in a three-game series against UCF, bringing its record to 14-5. The Rams battled all weekend, playing two one-run games on Friday and Saturday — splitting the pair with the Knights — before losing handily, 8-2, on Sunday.
Sunday marked the second of two losses for the Rams in Orlando, Florida. The Knights defeated the Black and Gold 8-2 as UCF jumped out to an early lead with four runs in the first two innings.
The Knights loaded the bases quickly in the bottom of the first after a single by UCF infielder Tyler Osik, followed by two walks. UCF singled in the opening run of the game, before redshirt-sophomore right-handed pitcher Justin Sorokowski walked in another to make it 2-0. Sorokowski was able to pitch out of the jam, as he got Griffin Bernardo, the Knights’ third baseman, to strike out looking.
But VCU was unable to answer. Following a leadoff single by junior infielder Paul Witt, the Rams went down in order to close out the top of the second. UCF kept its foot on the gas from there. The Knights hung another two runs, aided by back-to-back leadoff doubles, in the bottom half of the inning to push their lead to 4-0.
After two scoreless innings, UCF ended the drought with a solo home run to right field. The Knights responded with two more runs in the sixth. An RBI single from UCF’s Adams Torres extended UCF’s lead to 8-0 after seven innings.
The Rams made a comeback effort in the eighth after three straight singles from freshman outfielder Tomas Sanchez, sophomore utility player Hogan Brown and freshman infielder Noah Heisler. Junior infielder Steven Carpenter then singled to left, bringing in two runs to get VCU on the scoreboard and cut the Rams’ deficit.
But the Rams were held scoreless the rest of the way, and the Black and Gold fell, 8-2.
VCU rallied from behind March 16 to beat UCF 4-3, as the Rams scored three runs in the final two innings to complete the comeback.
The Rams finally got on the board with an RBI triple in the top of the sixth after trailing early when UCF hung two runs in the bottom of the first. After Witt singled to left with two outs in the inning, sophomore infielder Liam Hibbits brought him around with a shot down the right field line to cut the Knights’ lead to 2-1. UCF would answer with a solo home run off the bat of Dallas Weaver in the bottom half of the inning.
Witt then reached on an error with two outs in the eighth, Hibbits doubled to drive Witt in for a second time. Sophomore outfielder Jack Schroeder then singled to bring in Hibbits and tie the game 3-3.
A scoreless half in the bottom of the eighth gave the Rams an opportunity to continue their momentum in the ninth. Brown singled to left and took second after a strikeout from senior infielder Zac Ching. Junior infielder Brett Norwood then reached on a throwing error, which Brown was able to score on to give VCU the lead, 4-3. Senior right-handed pitcher Benjamin Dum recorded three quick outs in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the win.
Hibbits led the way for the Rams, going 2-for-4 with two RBI. Junior right-handed pitcher Connor Gillispie struck out four batters over five innings, while Dum pitched three scoreless innings to earn his third win of the season.
VCU’s March 15 comeback effort came up just short, as the Rams scored two runs — needing three — in the ninth to lose the shootout battle 10-9. As they did all weekend, UCF struck first, putting up three runs in the bottom of the first. VCU rallied for two runs in the second, but the Knights responded with two runs of their own to extend their lead to 5-2.
After UCF hung three runs in the bottom of the fifth, the Rams plated four runs in the top of the sixth. VCU led off the inning with three straight singles from Witt, Hibbits and freshman catcher Logan Amiss. Witt scored on Amiss’s single before junior catcher Josh Simon drove in Hibbits with an RBI double. Amiss and Simon came around to score on a sacrifice fly and a ground out, respectively.
The Rams added one in the seventh, before their ninth-inning rally fell short. Senior right-hander Curtis Bafus started for the Rams and only went three innings, surrendering nine hits and five earned runs. Witt led the way for the Rams with three hits in five plate appearances, including his first home run of the season, to go along with two RBI.
The Rams are back in action March 20 at the Diamond against Towson at 6:30 p.m. and March 22-24 hosting Massachusetts at 6:30 p.m, 2 p.m. and 1 p.m.