BOSTON, Mass. – The VCU baseball team exploded for five runs in the eighth inning, capped off by a Brent Mikionis home run to defeat Northeastern 6-2 in the series opener on Friday afternoon at Friedman Diamond.
With the victory the Rams improve to 14-12 and 4-6 in the CAA, while the Huskies fall to 12-8 and 3-4 in league action.
Deadlocked at 1-1 in the top of the eighth inning, the Rams needed a spark. VCU freshman Vimael Machin led off the inning with a single. Redshirt junior Taylor Buran then laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Machin to second. After senior Paul Nice drew a walk, a wild pitch gave the Rams runners on second and third with only one out. Sophomore Bill Cullen came to the plate and delivered a clutch single to push the score to 2-1. The Rams were just getting started however, as junior Jordan Weymouth then squeezed home Nice giving the Rams a 3-1 lead with two outs and a runner on second. The rally continued as sophomore Joey Cujas sent a slow roller past the pitcher, bringing Cullen around from second and handing the Rams a 4-1 advantage. Mikionis then dug in and belted a line drive shot over the left wall to lift the Rams to a 6-1 lead.
"I thought it was a well played game by both teams," said VCU head coach Paul Keyes. "We had our opportunities late in the game and we pushed runs across and had a big inning. I think Bill Cullen had a big at-bat and then obliviously Mikionis hitting that home run gave us the cushion that we needed to hold on to the game."
VCU got a solid pitching performance from its staff all afternoon. Junior Kyle Haynes gave the Rams 5.2 strong innings, allowing only one run on seven hits, while striking out six. Haynes (pictured right) was replaced by junior Brennan Huelse who faced one batter, before senior Kyle Pelchy came on and gave the Rams two innings of relief. Pelchy allowed one run on five hits, before giving way to Blake Hauser who got the last four outs for VCU. Pelchy picked up the win and improved to 3-1. Northeastern starter Andrew Leenhouts suffered the loss and falls to 3-1 on the campaign.
"I thought Kyle Haynes, Kyle Pelchy and Blake Hauser all pitched very well for us today," added Keyes.
The Rams wasted little time getting things going. Cullen was hit by a pitch, and then stole second to put himself in scoring position with nobody out. Weymouth was able to push Cullen to third on a bunt, before Cullen scored on a RBI groundout from Cujas.
The Black and Gold would maintain a 1-0 lead until the bottom of the third inning. Northeastern's Connor Lyons got hit by a pitch, then stole second. A sac-bunt by Oliver Hart put Lyons on second, where he was driven in by a single. The Huskies continued to rally, but with the bases loaded Jon Lerox grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The Huskies would threaten numerous times throughout, but the Rams defense held strong only, turning three double plays and throwing a runner out at home plate to keep the game tied at 1-1 until the eighth inning rally.
The Huskies were able to add a run in their half of the eighth inning. Jason Vosler led off with a double followed by a Rob Fonseca single putting runners on the corners. Alex McKeon drove home Vosler with a single, but the Rams got out of the jam and held on to win 6-2.
The Rams and Huskies continue their three game set tomorrow at noon.