WILMINGTON, N.C. – Third-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University scored five runs over the first three innings and escaped a pair of bases loaded jams to defeat #1 James Madison University, 6-3, Friday evening in the winner's bracket final of the 2010 Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Championship.
With the victory, VCU advances to Saturday's championship game for the fifth time in its last seven trips to the tournament. The Rams will face the winner of tonight's James Madison /#4 UNC Wilmington matchup at 1 p.m.
Sophomore Brent Mikionis went 2-for-4 with three RBI, including a two-run homer in the first inning for VCU, while seniors Matt Leskiw and Richard Gonzalez each collected a pair of hits. Junior Joe Van Meter broke former Ram Sergio Miranda's single season hits record when he collected his 101st with an infield single in the third inning. He is just one hit shy of tying the CAA's single-season mark of 102 held by UNC Wilmington's Tim Preston.
Sophomore Kyle Haynes made his first career postseason start on the mound and surrendered two runs on three hits with five strikeouts in three innings of work. Junior Jonathan Watson and sophomore Kyle Pelchy combined to throw the final six frames and allowed one run on just two hits, while fanning five.
Van Meter continued to be a catalyst in the Rams' lineup as he drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the first, which extended the inning for Mikionis, who hit his team-leading 10th homerun of the season to put the Rams on top early, 2-0.
But James Madison answered in the top of the second as Matt Browning and Matt Tenaglia collected back-to-back singles to start the frame. Matt Townsend then cut the VCU lead in half with a RBI groundout but Haynes settled down and struck out Johnny Bladel to end the inning as the Dukes stranded the tying run at third base.
The first six batters reached for VCU in the third as the Rams used a three-run inning to extend their lead to 5-1. Van Meter hit a slow roller to third base and legged out an infield single to break the VCU single season hits record but Browning's throw was wild and Leskiw scored from second base. Mikionis and freshman Nick Kime followed with RBI singles and gave the Rams a four-run cushion.
James Madison chased Haynes in the fourth after Jake Lowery led off with a single and Browning and Tenaglia drew back-to-back walks. Watson came in for his team-leading 28th relief appearance and struck out David Herbek for the first out of the inning. The junior then issued a four-pitch walk to Towsend and the Dukes pulled within 5-2. But Watson settled down and struck out Bladel before getting Mike Fabiaschi to groundout and the Rams escaped the bases loaded jam with minimal damage.
The Dukes threatened again in the fifth with the bases loaded and just one out but Watson forced Tenaglia to fly out and fanned Herbeck for the second time and VCU escaped a James Madison threat in back-to-back innings.
After sitting down seven straight VCU batters, Dukes' reliever D.J. Brown surrendered a one-out single to sophomore Paul Nice in the bottom of the sixth. Sophomore Taylor Perkins then moved the Rams' leftfielder into scoring position with a groundout and senior Doug Otto lined a RBI single into left to extend VCU's lead to 6-2.
Knight hit a leadoff homerun to center in the top of the seventh and James Madison got the run back to pull within 6-3. But Pelchy came in and retired nine straight batters to pick up his third save of the season.