Rams’ late rally falls short at matchup with Cavaliers

Sophomore designated hitter Liam Hibbits belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, providing the only runs of the game for VCU. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Late-inning fireworks from sophomore designated hitter Liam Hibbits made it interesting Tuesday night at The Diamond, but it was not enough for the Rams, who were edged by Virginia 3-2.

Hibbits took an 0-1 hanging slider deep to right field for a two-run homerun, pulling the Rams within one of the Cavaliers. But the rally fell short as junior first baseman Steven Carpenter flew out to deep centerfield to end the contest.

“Who would have thought we’d put up two right there?” coach Shawn Stiffler said. “It wasn’t so much the way we were going, it was the way the ballpark was playing. I thought we put swings on the ball all night.”

The Rams drove the ball — sometimes, deep — into the outfield, but right at Virginia outfielders. VCU hit 14 flyouts and only five groundouts during the contest.

“I thought there were three or four balls hit today that, at a lot of places, would have been home runs,” Stiffler said. “The ballpark just wasn’t surrendering anything tonight.”

The Cavaliers struck first in the second inning when designated hitter Jack Weiller sent a grounder into right field, driving in third baseman Zack Gelof from third.

The run broke junior right-handed pitcher Connor Gillispie’s six-inning shutout streak, dating back to April 26 against George Washington.

Virginia added another in the third inning with an RBI single from left fielder Brendan Rivoli. The sophomore catcher threw out Rivoli at second to end the inning.

Gillispie went four innings, allowing two runs and walking one Cavalier. Tuesday night was the first time this season that the Earlysville, Virginia, native did not strike out any batters.

“I didn’t throw the ball as well as I wanted to,” Gillispie said. “But I battled … just have to keep battling.”

Freshman left-handed pitcher Maddison Furman came in for the Rams to relieve Gillispie, appearing for the fourth time this season.

Furman turned a double play after fielding a ground ball off Weiller’s bat and threw to Ching at second, who completed the play with a throw to first. During his two innings on the mound, he allowed one hit, one run and recorded one strikeout.

“He came out and was in the zone, not an easy situation,” Stiffler said. “He hasn’t thrown a lot for us, and I don’t know why. That’s going to change, I think, if he’s going to act like that. Really proud of that young man.”

Virginia tallied another run in the sixth inning when Gelof scored on a Nate Eikhoff RBI single, extending the Cavalier lead to three.

VCU never moved a runner past second base in the contest until Hibbits’ home run in the ninth inning cut the deficit to one.

The Black and Gold will have another crack at Virginia May 14 in Charlottesville for the final meeting between the two teams this season.

The Rams travel to Lexington, Virginia, tomorrow to face VMI at 6 p.m.

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