RICHMOND, Va. – Following Friday night's emotional setback to William & Mary in 11 innings on Friday night at The Diamond, VCU associate head coach Shawn Stiffler told his team that Saturday would be a chance to find out about themselves as a team with a doubleheader scheduled against the Tribe.
After 18 innings of high intensity baseball on Saturday, Stiffler has an answer: his team doesn't quit.
The Rams rallied in the eighth inning of game one for a 7-4 victory, and followed with a ninth inning rally in the second game for a 5-4 victory to secure the series victory over the Tribe.
"I had a sense in both games that we were going to come back and win based on the way we were playing, and we did," said Stiffler. "The guys are really starting to figure out how to put a complete game together; they are competing for at-bats, believing in each other and in the process we have set in place."
VCU's overall record improves to 22-18, including a 9-12 mark in CAA play with the two victories. William & Mary drops to 25-18 and 10-11 in league games.
In the late game, the Rams entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-2 to the Tribe. After redshirt junior Taylor Buran and freshman infielder Vimael Machin started off the inning with back-to-back singles, the offense stalled, with an infield pop out and a strikeout looking to give the Rams just one out to cut into the Tribe's advantage. With a 2-2 count against him, sophomore outfielder Bill Cullen drove John Farrell's off the wall in left center field for a double, scoring Buran and Machin to tie the score at 4-4. Junior infielder Jordan Weymouth (pictured right) ended the game just three pitches later, smacking a single over the left fielder's head, to plate Cullen and seal the 5-4 victory for the Rams.
William & Mary pulled ahead early in the contest, scoring a single run in the top of the third inning.
The Rams knotted things up in the bottom of the fifth inning, creating a run on a two-out rally started by a hit-by-pitch of senior outfielder Paul Nice. The Powhatan, Va., native got hung up on pickoff attempt at first, only to bolt towards second base; the Tribe first baseman threw the ball into the outfield, allowing Nice to advance all the way to third. Cullen followed with a double down the left field line to score Nice.
After the Tribe scored three in the sixth for a 4-1 lead, the Rams cut the deficit to two with a lone run in the bottom of the frame. Sophomore infielder Joey Cujas led off the inning with a double to left center, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Redshirt junior Brent Mikionis lined a single through the left side, scoring Cujas from third.
Freshman pitcher Matt Lees earned the victory after pitching a scoreless ninth inning. Senior pitcher Seth Cutler-Voltz turned in another impressive performance, throwing seven and 2/3rds innings while giving up just two earned runs.
In the first game of the day, William & Mary scored one run in the top of the third, only to see the Rams come back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. After Nice led off with a walk, Cullen roped a double down the right field line; Nice was able to score on the play following a throwing error by the right fielder. Weymouth laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Cullen, who would come around to score on a wild pitch during Cujas' at-bat. Cujas reached on a fielding error, took second on a hit-by-pitch and scored on a single up the middle by sophomore Chris Ayers.
The Tribe cut the Rams lead to one after a single run in the top of the fifth, then took their first lead of the game with two runs in the top of the eighth.
Sophomore Landon Prentiss (pictured left) came off the bench to pinch hit for senior catcher Kyle Sutherland, and delivered a solo home run over the wall in left field to tie the score at 4-4. Nice, the next batter, matched Prentiss's shot with another solo home run to left, to give the Rams a 5-4 advantage. VCU tacked on a pair of runs, to claim the victory.
Junior pitcher Blake Hauser earned the victory after pitching the last out of the eighth and the entire ninth inning, while not allowing a run. VCU received a stalwart performance from junior pitcher Ryan Farrar, who pitched seven innings and allowed just one earned run.
VCU is set to host in-state rival University of Virginia this Wednesday at The Diamond, with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. In 2011, the two schools met in front of a record crowd, as 5,421 fans passed through the turnstiles at The Diamond, which was the largest crowd to ever watch a college baseball game in the state of Virginia.
"Obviously they are the team that everyone in the state is chasing," added Stiffler. "There will be a good crowd and great atmosphere on hand again. For us, we are looking to come out here and be ready to compete. If we play good baseball we will be in the game at the end of it; then it just comes down to a timely hit or a timely strikeout, and we will be right there."