LONG BEACH, Calif. – In the top of the ninth inning, the VCU Baseball team trailed Long Beach State 4-1, against one of the top closers in the country.
It was a difficult situation to even imagine to overcoming, let alone actually doing, but the 2012 edition of the VCU Baseball team wanted to get the season started off with a bang.
Junior infielder Jordan Weymouth started things off with a single to left center. Sophomore infielder Joey Cujas grounded out to the third baseman, which allowed Weymouth to move up to second base. Redshirt junior Brent Mikionis (four-for-four, one RBI, one walk) delivered a single to left field, which plated Weymouth and infused the VCU dugout with energy and confidence.
VCU senior catcher Taylor Perkins (one run, two walks) capitalized on that confidence, as he laid off four close pitches, to draw a walk and keep the rally alive for the Black & Gold. Junior outfielder Taylor Buran hit a comebacker right up the middle, which caromed of the leg of Long Beach State pitcher Eddie Magallon and moved towards the third baseman. Buran tore down the first base line and outran the throw, to keep the rally alive and load the bases for teammate Vimael Machin.
Machin, a freshman playing in his first collegiate contest, delivered a safely hit fly ball to right field, which plated Mikionis (pictured right) and moved his teammates up one base. Buran, was was standing on first at the time of Machin's hit, burst past second based and began heading for third, only to see Perkins standing on third base. Buran darted back into second base, beating high throw to the second base by sliding into the backside of the back to keep the bases juiced and an out in the team's pocket.
Senior outfielder Paul Nice, a player that has been hobbled by an ankle injury in recent days, delivered the next strike for the Rams with a looping single to left field. The hit pushed across both Perkins and Buran, and handed VCU its first lead of the game since the third inning. The Rams tried to tack on an insurance run on the next at bat, as Paul Nice got caught up in a run down before first and second, attempting to let Machin score from third, but the Dirtbags were able to fire the ball home in time to get Machin out.
As the Rams took the field for the bottom of the ninth, they called on junior right hander Blake Hauser. Things didn't get off to a great start, as Robert Vickers delivered a triple down the right field line to start off the inning for the Dirtbags (0-1). Hauser then walked Brennan Metzger, followed by a wild pitch that allowed Metzger to move to second. The wild pitch put the tying run on second and the game winning run on third, but Hauser dug deep and delivered a strikeout to Johnny Bekakis for the first out of the inning.
Hauser then squared off against No. 9 hitter Royce Muria, a player that had already driven in three RBI in the game. Hauser got Muria to hit a fly ball to short right field, which Buran caught, before seeing Vickers attempt to tag up from third base to tie the game. Buran fired a strike down the first base line, which Perkins, the senior catcher, caught while simultaneously blocking a portion of the plate from Vickers. Perkins swiped his glove towards Vickers but missed, as Vickers attempted to evade Perkins, but while doing so missed home plate entirely. Perkins turned, ran over and tagged Vickers for the game's final out.
"I just thought it was a great team effort all the way through," said VCU 18th year Head Coach Paul Keyes. "We could tell this morning at team breakfast that these guys were really focused and they were really ready to go today. They are a tight knit group and that was evident throughout tonight's game as everyone played hard, even when we were down to our final outs. We got some big time hits at the end to take the lead and it was just a great team victory."
Senior pitcher Josh Alford (pictured right) earned the victory in the contest, as he pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Black & Gold. Hauser garnered his first save of the 2012 season. Magallon took the loss for the Dirtbags, as he allowed four runs in the ninth.
VCU junior pitcher Kyle Haynes pitched 6.1 innings for the Rams, allowing five hits, four runs and fanning a trio of batters. Freshman Matt Lees made his first collegiate appearance in the game, relieving Haynes in the bottom of the sixth. Lees faced three batters, allowing one hit and fanning one batter.
The Rams featured a stout defense throughout the game, as the team did not record an error and turned four double plays, including the game ending play.
VCU will look to capture the series against Long Beach State on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., pacific time.