FAIRFAX, Va. – Virginia Commonwealth University split a Colonial Athletic Association doubleheader against George Mason Saturday afternoon at Raymond H. Spuhler Field. VCU won the opener 3-2 in 11 innings before the Patriots scored five unanswered runs to defeat the Rams in the nightcap 5-4.
VCU steadies its record at 12-17 overall, 5-6 in CAA play while George Mason is 14-18-1, 3-11.
Because of rain, the Rams played their second conference doubleheader in three weeks. VCU also split a pair of games at Georgia State on March 25.
The three-game series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m.
GAME 1: VCU 3, GEORGE MASON 2 (11 INN.)
George Mason tied the game with solo home run in the bottom of the ninth but a sacrifice fly by junior Paul Nice gave VCU a 3-2, 11-inning victory in game one of Saturday's doubleheader.
A pair of solo home runs nearly proved too costly for the Rams as Shane Davis put George Mason on the board with a shot in the sixth and Zack Helgeson tied it with a long ball in the ninth. However, VCU was able to score the go-ahead run in the eleventh and the Patriots stranded the tying run at second in their last at-bat.
Senior Michael Caddell went a career-best 3-for-5, sophomore Nick Kime finished 2-for-5 and Nice drove in a pair of runs to pace VCU offensively. Junior Seth Cutler-Voltz allowed one run in 7.1 innings of work but received a no-decision after the Patriots tied it in the ninth. Senior Jonathan Watson, who came in with the score knotted at 2-2, tossed the final two innings to pick up his third win.
Junior John Lenherr drew a two-out walk, stole second and came home on a double by freshman Joey Cujas, and the Rams took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Then, a walk and three straight hits pushed VCU's advantage to 2-0 in the second as Kime singled and scored on an infield hit by Nice. The Rams had a chance to add to their lead but left the bases loaded.
George Mason nearly got on the board in the fourth with runners on second and third with only one out but Cutler-Voltz got Helgeson to chase and Mick Foley grounded out to keep the Patriots scoreless.
After the Rams plated a run in the second, George Mason starter A.J. Johnson settled in and retired 11 of the next 13 batters including 10 straight spanning the end of the fourth, fifth and sixth.
Davis eventually cut the VCU lead in half in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to right field.
George Mason again mounted a rally in the eighth placing the tying run on second with one out, but sophomore reliever Brennan Huelse struck out Davis and junior Josh Alford got Blaise Fernandez to fly out to preserve the lead.
Helgeson went on to tie the game at 2-2 with a round tripper in the bottom of the ninth. George Mason's Brig Tyson and Dan Schafferman then blooped back-to-back one-out singles in the tenth to put the winning run in scoring position but Watson induced a double play to end the inning.
Kime singled and advanced to second on an error to start the eleventh. A base hit by Caddell put runners on the corners with no out and Nice drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly into center.
GAME 2: GEORGE MASON 5, VCU 4
After VCU hit for the cycle in a four-run first inning, George Mason starter Ryan Pfaeffle held the Rams hitless for seven straight innings and allowed just two base runners (a pair of walks) as the Patriots rallied with five unanswered runs to win the nightcap, 5-4.
Pfaeffle and reliever Brandon Kuter combined to retire 15 straight and 25 of the last 28 batters. VCU had just one hit during the final eight innings, which came as a single off the bat of freshman Landon Prentiss in the ninth.
Sophomore starter Kyle Haynes allowed just two runs in 6.1 innings of work but recorded a no-decision after the VCU bullpen surrendered three runs in the final 1.1 frames.
VCU gave Haynes a four-run cushion in the top of the first. Freshman Bill Cullen led off game two with a triple into center and came home a batter later when senior Ryan Caldwell pushed a bunt down the first base line, putting the Rams on top 1-0. A RBI single by senior Michael Cheatham and a two-run homer by junior Taylor Perkins gave VCU a quick 4-0 advantage.
A groundout by Christopher Cook and a chopper up the middle from Tison capped off a three-hit attack that pulled George Mason within 4-2 in the second.
After Perkins' home run, Pfaeffle sat down eight in a row and 22 of the next 24 batters – surrendering two walks during the stretch – and held the Rams without a hit over the next seven innings.
George Mason tried to rally again in the seventh but just as he did in game one, Huelse was brought in to face Davis in the bottom of the frame. He again picked up a pair of crucial outs for the Rams getting Davis to bounce into an inning-ending double play to preserve VCU's two-run advantage.
The Patriots eventually knotted the score at 4-4 in the eighth. Fernandez, who led off with a triple into right center, scored on a bunt by Jeremy Haas with no outs and Allen tied it two batters later with a RBI single into right.
A leadoff hit from Tison and a one-out walk by Davis put the winning run at second for George Mason in the bottom of the ninth. Fernandez then drilled a walkoff single over the head of Cullen in center to even the series at one game apiece.