Thomas Callahan, Contributing Writer
The Rams baseball team defeated the Saint Joseph’s University Hawks in a three-game series this past weekend.
On April 19, the unranked Rams took 10 innings to defeat the No. 8 University of Virginia Cavaliers. A home run from graduate student Jacob Selden ultimately won the game for the Rams. The final score was 9-7. Head coach Shawn Stiffler said he hopes the win will motivate his players.
“That can either be the highlight of your season or the moment that propels you to the highlight of your season,” Stiffler said. “We’re really hoping that’s the moment that propels us to the highlight.”
Friday, April 22
Clear skies and temperatures in the 70s created the perfect conditions for baseball on Friday night. The first of three against Saint Joseph’s University displayed a Rams team full of confidence after defeating University of Virginia, one of the best teams in the country.
Getting the game underway atop the mound for the Rams was redshirt junior Maddison Furman. Making only his second start of the season, Furman started well, allowing only two hits in three innings of work, according to VCU Athletics.
VCU’s offense got started in the third inning, scoring the first two runs of the game. Sophomore Ben Nippolt and redshirt sophomore Tyler Locklear reached base on a walk and double, respectively. A single from junior Logan Amiss allowed both runners to score before sophomore Connor Hujsak popped out for the third out.
Locklear has excelled at getting extra base hits all season. He currently leads the team in slugging percentage, according to VCU Athletics. Slugging percentage represents the number of bases a hitter records across all his at-bats. Locklear said he tries to be patient at the plate and the rest falls into place.
“You always look for something you can put a good swing on, your natural ability will take you over and put them in the gap and over the fence, so that’s my approach,” Locklear said.
Both teams were quiet in the fourth inning before VCU added to their lead in the fifth. Freshman second baseman Martin O’Malley and freshman outfielder Jesse Robinson opened the inning with singles before Nippolt reached base on a bunt, loading the bases. All three runners managed to score on a Locklear single after a throwing error by the Hawks, making the score 5-0.
The Rams continued to score after a single from Hujsak allowed him to join Locklear on base. A single from sophomore Devan Barnett allowed both runners to score, making the game 7-0 at the end of the fifth inning.
The Hawks managed to score two runs of their own in the eighth inning but were unable to match VCU’s early offense. The final score of the first game in the series was 7-2.
Saturday, April 23
Another beautiful day on Saturday set the stage for a high scoring affair between the two sides. Sophomore Tyler Davis, making his 11th start of the season according to VCU Athletics, got the game underway below partly cloudy skies at The Diamond.
Both sides failed to register a hit in the first inning with Davis retiring the Hawks’ first three batters in sequence. The Newport News native currently has a lower earned run average than his figure last year, according to VCU Athletics.
VCU was able to take the lead in the bottom of the second inning, starting their offense early. Senior Jacob Selden and sophomore Cooper Benzin both reached base, the latter being VCU’s first hit. Both were able to score on a double by freshman Martin O’Malley, making the game 2-0. O’Malley added a run to the Ram’s total when the Hawk’s catcher allowed a pitch to go past him.
Davis, in his fourth inning of work, struggled in his second chance against the top of Saint Joseph’s University’s lineup. The Hawks managed to score two runs on three hits. Davis managed to recover, though stranding three runners on base.
The Rams managed to score three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings of play. In the fifth inning, a Hujsak home run scored two with the third coming on an error by the Hawks second baseman. In the sixth inning, the Hawks struggled defensively, allowing three runs to score on two wild pitches and an error.
After a four run seventh inning made the score 13-3, the Hawks needed to kickstart their offense to have a chance at winning. After a pitching change to start the ninth inning, the Hawks capitalized, scoring six runs. Two of which came on fielding errors by VCU players. Once the inning and game had ended, the final score was 13-9, with VCU taking the second game of the series.
Sunday, April 24
Sophomore Campbell Ellis started the game for the Rams on one of the hottest days all season. Ellis, making his 14th start of the season according to VCU Athletics, seemed to struggle early, allowing Saint Joseph’s University third baseman to drive one over the fence, making the game 1-0. After the game, VCU head coach Stiffler took responsibility for the home run.
“I thought Campbell did a great job today; the home run was my fault. I was not infront of how we wanted to pitch that guy and what I wanted to do with him,” Stiffler said. “I had the matchup I wanted but I didn’t make clear enough how we were going to about the matchup and that’s really my fault.”
VCU failed to respond through the first four innings, allowing Saint Joseph’s University to add to their lead in the top of the fifth inning. Ellis allowed four hits to start the inning before being replaced by Jaden Griffin with the score 2-0.
Griffin, inheriting loaded bases from Ellis, couldn’t get the Rams out of the jam. The first batter Griffin faced launched a grand slam to left centerfield, growing Saint Joseph’s University’s lead to 6-0. A single from third baseman Ben Nippolt put the Rams on the board, allowing O’Malley to score.
While the Hawks were unable to score for the remainder of the game, VCU couldn’t claw their way back into the game. A barrage of singles allowed the Rams to pick up one run on a single from redshirt junior AJ Mathis, with the temperature sitting in the low 90s. The game ended, after a Locklear homerun in the ninth, at 6-3.
VCU’s next weekend series will be played against the University of Dayton Flyers starting Friday, April 29. The first pitch will be thrown at 7 p.m. at Woerner Field in Dayton, Ohio.