RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Commonwealth University scored three runs in the eighth and one more in the ninth to force an extra frame but James Madison used a four-run 10th inning to defeat VCU, 12-8, Friday night in the opener of a three-game Colonial Athletic Association series at The Diamond.
Junior Taylor Perkins, who went 2-for-4 with a run and three RBI, was one of four Rams to collect multiple hits. Seniors John Lenherr and Michael Cheatham each went 2-for-5, while freshman Bill Cullen finished 2-for-2 with a RBI.
Despite allowing the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, James Madison's Trent Cundiff picked up the win on the mound after the Dukes rallied with four runs in the 10th. Senior Jonathan Watson, who allowed four unearned runs over 2.0 innings of work, suffered his third loss of the season.
James Madison jumped on top 2-0 in the top of the second. Matt Tenaglia roped the first pitch he saw up the middle and scored after Tyler McFarland lined a double into right. Bradley Shaban then came through with an RBI single to give the Dukes a two-run lead.
David Herbek singled to center with one out and came home a batter later when Johnny Bladel doubled down the right field line and James Madison extended its lead to 3-0 in the third. The Dukes then added three more runs on a pair of hits in the fourth to stake a 6-0 advantage.
VCU didn't back down, however, and strung together a three-run fourth inning to cut James Madison's lead in half. Freshman Joey Cujas picked up Rams' first hit of the game with a single into center and moved over to third on a hit up the middle by Cheatham. Senior Michael Caddell, who replaced an injured Taylor Buran after he was hit in the hand in the third, walked to load the bases and Perkins roped a bases clearing double into right and the Rams pulled within 6-3.
Alex Foltz singled, stole second and third, and scored on a passed ball in the sixth before McFarland made it an 8-3 James Madison advantage with a RBI groundout in the seventh.
The Rams loaded the bases and got a run back in the bottom of the seventh when junior Paul Nice lifted a sacrifice fly into center and Perkins raced home to make it 8-4. VCU then pulled within a run with three more in the eighth. An RBI single by Cheatham, a sacrifice fly by sophomore Nick Kime and an infield single by Cullen cut the Dukes' lead to 8-7.
VCU preserved the one-run game in the top of the ninth as Nice threw out Johnny Bladel tagging from third for an inning-ending double play. James Madison loaded the bases with no out and Watson came in relief and retired the two batters he faced to keep the Rams close.
VCU continued to battle and tied it in the bottom of the ninth. Lenherr lined a one-out double into left and eventually scored on a wild pitch by Cundiff to knot the score at 8-8 and force an extra frame.
The rally wouldn't carry over into the 10th, however, as James Madison exploded for four runs and went on top 12-8. Shaban struck out to start the frame but reached on a passed ball. A RBI double by Jake Lowery, a groundout by Herbeck and a VCU fielding error gave the Dukes the lead for good.
The Rams tried to mount a comeback in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with no out, but reliever Sean Tierney induced a double play and strikeout to end the game.
VCU and James Madison are back in action Saturday at 4 p.m. before concluding the series on Sunday at 2 p.m.