Tom Callahan, Contributing Writer
The VCU Rams baseball team played against Atlantic 10-leading Davidson College Wildcats in their second conference series, winning one game out of the three-game series.
The Rams sit sixth in the A-10 at 16-14 after losing two of three-game series against the Wildcats. VCU entered the conference series after winning the series against the George Mason University Patriots. The three high-scoring games, which saw the teams combine 44 runs, encouraged the Rams to perform better on the pitching front.
Despite the high-scoring series against the Patriots, the Rams’ pitching has been good throughout this season. The team has the second lowest Earned Run Average in the A-10, according to the A10’s official website. The ERA represents the number of runs a pitcher, or team, allows per nine innings.
VCU head coach Shawn Stiffler said the better pitching is a reflection of the new VCU pitching coach, Seth Cutler-Voltz.
“We’ve pitched really well all year, we throw a ton of strikes and that keeps us in games,” Stiffler said. “You can not give up a bunch of hits if you’re gonna have a bunch of free bases and we don’t give up many free bases and so kudos to coach [Seth Cutler-]Voltz, he has those guys ready and has a formula that they’re pitching to.”
Friday, April 8
The Rams took the first game by one run after allowing Davidson to lead for most of the affair. The Wildcats have looked good offensively and defensively; their three lead off batters had a combined batting average of .377, and their starting pitcher entered the game with an ERA below two, at 1.29.
Neither the pitching or hitting seemed to bother the Rams early on. Sophomore starting pitcher Tyler Davis set the team up to take the lead in the first inning after striking out all three of Davidson’s batters. On the offensive, Tyler Locklear gave VCU an early 2-0 lead after he hit a home run just over the left field fence. Locklear said he was lucky to receive a pitch he could drive.
“You never try to change your approach, you just stick to what you know, coming into this game, we knew he was gonna be good, and he was, I was just lucky enough to get one off. I got a pitch I could handle and hit one over the fence,” Locklear said.
The Rams’ lead was short-lived however, after Davidson’s bats woke up in the third inning. Rams starting pitcher Tyler Davis allowed two home runs, which made the game 5-2, before being replaced by left-handed sophomore Jack Masloff, who got the final out to end the inning.
VCU made two runs back in the bottom of the fourth before Davidson scored another run, leaving the game at 6-4. With the temperature dropping steadily, the game seemed all but out of reach before Rams senior catcher Jacob Selden gave the team hope in the bottom of the eighth, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to one. Following suit, freshman left fielder Jesse Robinson got an RBI of his own, tying the game.
When Davidson failed to score in their final opportunity before potential extra innings, the stage was set for a moment of magic at The Diamond. Logan Amiss, representing the winning run, started the Rams’ offense with a single into center field. After two quick outs, head coach Stiffler decided to make a substitution, giving sophomore Will Carlone an opportunity to capture his second walk-off of the season.
The crowd was all but silent as Carlone started his at-bat, but erupted when his hit landed just in front of the Davidson center fielder’s glove. Carlone was swarmed by teammates as Amiss crossed home plate, making the game 7-6 and winning for VCU. Carlone said the key was the Rams’ late surge.
“It was great,” he said. “We all rallied in the last two innings and got some swings off and I was just the right man in the right place.”
Saturday, April 9
With Richmond’s canine companions in attendance for VCU’s “Bark in the Park” event, VCU left-handed sophomore pitcher Campbell Ellis got the game underway. The game was quiet through the first four innings, with Davidson’s double in the second inning being the only hit between the sides.
Throughout the season, VCU head coach Shawn Stiffler has routinely not allowed his pitchers to continue for longer than four innings. That trend continued when Ellis was replaced by VCU freshman left-handed pitcher Cade Dressler to start the fifth inning.
The Wildcats batters quickly took advantage of the pitching change, starting the inning with a walk. Dressler was able to pick up one out before a three-run homerun, which gave Davidson the lead. Dressler was able to get out of the inning, but not before Davidson’s first baseman stole home, making the game 4-0 in favor of the Wildcats.
Well into the second half of the game, Davidson grew their lead by one on a single to left center field in the seventh inning. It took a pitching change in the eighth inning from Davidson, who’s starting pitcher had thrown 115 pitches by that point, for VCU to get a single from junior first baseman Michael Haydak.
The Rams took advantage of their runners when a single from VCU redshirt junior Logan Amiss gave the Rams their first run. VCU scored another run on a double from Tyler Locklear. At the conclusion of the eighth, VCU trailed 5-2.
After a two run inning for Davidson, the Rams fail to get on the board again. The game ended 7-2 in Davidson’s favor.
Sunday, April 10
Davidson won the third game in the series 7-2. VCU redshirt sophomore pitcher Mason Delane, 2021 A-10 All-Rookie, started the game for the Rams. Last season, Delane led the Rams in innings pitched at 64.2 and earned a 4.87 ERA. Delane hit the first batter but was able to pick up a strikeout before ending the inning.
Both teams managed to get themselves on the scoreboard in the second inning. In the top, Davidson scored on a ball hit high to center field. In the bottom, VCU sophomore second baseman Ben Nippolt crossed home on a fly ball to center field hit by sophomore catcher Nic Ericsson.
After a quiet third and fourth inning from both teams, Davidson exploded in the fifth inning. A single carried in one run followed by a triple which scored two more, making the score 4-1. A double later, the game was 6-1 and coach Stiffler pulled the pitcher.
The Rams answered in the sixth with a run of their own. VCU junior right fielder Logan Amiss started the inning, reaching base after the catcher dropped the ball. VCU sophomore third baseman Tyler Locklear, fifth in the A-10 in runs batted in, added another to his total on a double that scored Amiss from first.
After allowing another run in the eighth on a double, the Rams failed to kickstart their offense for the rest of the game. One hit in three innings allowed Davidson to maintain their lead, winning the final game of the series 7-2.
VCU’s next weekend series will be played against the University of Richmond Spiders starting Friday, April 15. First pitch will be thrown at 2:30 p.m. at Pitt Field in Richmond.