RICHMOND, Va. – After falling in extra innings Friday, Virginia Commonwealth University recovered and picked up a doubleheader sweep against Fairfield University with wins of 7-6 and 3-2 on Saturday afternoon at The Diamond.
The Rams have won four of their first six games to start the year, while Fairfield drops to 1-2 after three games.
"I thought we had great production out of our starting pitching today and came up with some good stops defensively," said VCU Head Coach Paul Keyes. "But we have to stop walking guys late in the game. It's something we haven't done a very good job of and it led to a loss out here last night and it almost cost us again today.
"Every game we're getting a better feel for what we need to do as a coaching staff to get these guys ready to go. At this point in the season we are just trying to find the nine guys that want to go out there and compete. We have a much better feel of that after today."
VCU pressured the Stags the entire day as the Black & Gold had at least one batter reach safely in 11 of its 14 innings Saturday, including all eight trips to the plate in game one.
Greg Fujii drew a walk on four straight pitches to start the first contest before John Lenherr sent a charge into left field and nearly missed his first home run as a Ram but the ball landed just a few feet shy of the wall.
Richard Gonzalez continued with a single up the middle and stole second to put a pair of runners in scoring position with one out. Van Meter worked a full count but went down on strikes and Paul Nice contributed a two-RBI single into center to put the Rams on top early, 2-0.
Jason Rago laced a one-out double into the gap in left center and advanced to third on a wild pitch in the top of the second. Rago came home on a groundout by Marco Garamella to pull the Stags within 2-1.
Chris Horning was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out in the top of the fifth inning and Rago tied the score at 2-2 as he came home on a passed ball and Fairfield went ahead after an RBI-groundout by Ryan Furbeck. Rams' starter Blake Hauser struck out Rafferty in what would have ended the inning, but his offering slid past catcher Nate Furry and the Stags increased their lead to 4-2.
VCU cut Fairfield's advantage in half in the bottom of the fifth as starter Scott Gussaroff issued a pair of walks to begin the inning. With one out, Van Meter came through with his first hit of the afternoon, a double into left center and got the Rams within 4-3.
The Black and Gold loaded the bases as three straight batters reached with two outs in the seventh. Van Meter singled to left, Nice reached on a throwing error and Michael Cheatham was hit by a pitch. Taylor Perkins came off the bench and crushed a ball into the right center gap, which cleared the bases and VCU regained the lead at 6-4.
Van Meter, who made his first appearance on the mound and picked up a save after tossing the final two innings in game one, was among a furry of defensive changes for VCU in the eighth. The Rams picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the frame as Fujji got things started with a standup double to left field. He then scored on an RBI-single by Lenherr to make it 7-4.
Fairfield made it interesting late as seven consecutive batters reached to start the ninth but the Stags, who left the bases loaded to end the game, could only manage two runs on two hits and one VCU error.
Hauser picked up his first collegiate win for VCU going seven innings allowing four runs (one earned) on three hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
In game two, Rams' starter Michael Graham retired six straight and 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. Carmine DeVito was the only Stag to reach base during the first four frames as he doubled to center to lead off the third inning. Harring then popped up and Lenherr made a diving catch on a line drive to keep the streak going.
VCU took a 2-0 lead for the second time in as many games after plating two runs in the bottom of the second. Van Meter and Nice reached on a walk and hit by pitch, respectively, to start the inning. Nick Kime came through with his first collegiate hit to plate Van Meter before Nice scored after an RBI groundout by Perkins.
Lenherr contributed an RBI single to put VCU on top 3-0 in the third.
However, Fairfield got to Graham a bit in the fifth and scored a pair of runs. Anthony Hajjar singled to start the frame and Rago followed with a walk to put runners on first and second with no out. DeVito advanced the runners after tapping back to Graham, who allowed two runs on three hits in five innings of work to earn his first win of the year, and Haring got the Stags on the board and pulled within a run on a two-RBI singled to center.
For the third time in the series Fairfield would threaten in the final frame. After Hajjar struck out looking to start the seventh, Jonathan Watson issued back-to-back walks and a passed ball put runners in scoring position with one out. Watson settled down and struck out Harning before Aaron Morgan, who induced a fly ball for the final out, picked up his first save of the season and completed the Saturday sweep.
VCU and Fairfield will conclude the four-game series with a 1 p.m. matchup Sunday at The Diamond.