LONG BEACH, Calif. – Two nights of Baseball. Two pressure filled games. On Friday night the VCU Baseball team captured a 5-4 victory in the bottom of the ninth to grab the first victory of the 2012 season, with a dramatic victory over Long Beach State. On Saturday, the Rams suffered their first loss of the 2012 season, 7-6, in yet another thriller with Long Beach State.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, junior pitcher Blake Hauser entered the contest to square off against Brennan Metzger of Long Beach State with runners on second and third. Metzger worked the count full, before Hauser's payoff pitch, sailed high for ball four. Senior catcher Taylor Perkins tried to get his glove on it, but it saild just high, allowing the winning to hustle home and give the Dirtbags a 7-6 victory.
"I thought tonight was another really competitive game," said VCU 18th year Head Coach Paul Keyes. "I thought we let them dictate the tempo of the game at times tonight, which really played into their hands. We did a good job though, we needed one more hit to get us over the top and be able to space the game out in our favor. But every time we would strike, they would answer back, so you have to give Long Beach State a lot of credit. I think we are playing really well, and it's a shame we are 1-1."
The Rams jumped out to an early lead, as junior Jordan Weymouth (pictured right) reached base safely on an error by the right fielder in the top of the first. Sophomore Joey Cujas delivered a double down the left field line, which put runners in scoring position at second and third base. Redshirt junior Brent Mikionis hit a towering fly ball to left field, which was caught by the left fielder, but was deep enough to plate Weymouth at third base. Perkins, the No. 5 hitter, blasted the first pitch of his at-bat over the centerfielder's head for a double, scoring Cujas. The two runs scored would be a solid kickstart for the Rams.
Long Beach State didn't take long to answer, as they pushed across a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. The Dirtbags started things off with a walk. After a strikeout by junior pitcher Ryan Farrar, Matt Duffy singled to right field to put runners on first and second. A VCU error loaded the bases for Long Beach State, before a walk brought in the first run of the game for the home team. Long Beach State added its second run on a wild pitch, bringing the score to 2-2 at the conclusion of one full inning of play.
The Dirtbags scored their third run of the contest in the top of the second, started off with a two out single by Juan Avila. Avila would move up two bases on a failed pickoff attempt, as the throw sailed wide of the bag. Avila would later score on a wild pitch.
Both teams would be held scoreless in the third inning, before Long Beach pushed across another run in the bottom of the fourth.
Momentum turned in VCU's favor in the top of the sixth, as three runs came across home plate on a hit by freshman Vimael Machin. Cujas started the inning off with his second double of the game, this time to centerfield. With one out and Cujas on second, Perkins delivered a single up the middle that put runners on the corners. Long Beach State would record the second out of the inning on a pop fly in foul territory, before Machin strode to the plate.
Machin took his offering and blasted a double into right centerfield, scoring Cujas easily with Perkins chugging along hard from first base. As Long Beach worked the ball into the cutoff man, Perkins tore off for him, sliding in safely before the throw even reached the catcher. Machin moved up to third base on the throw to home; the throw from the cutoff man to the catcther to get Perkins, bounced in the dirt and caromed off the catcher's body, allowing Machin to scoring from third. The freshman's hit plated three runs for the Black & Gold and handed VCU a 5-4 advantage.
Long Beach State came right back in the bottom half of the inning, scoring one run to knot the score at 5-5.
VCU manufactured a run in the top of the seventh, as Cujas scored from second base with two outs on an error by the Long Beach State shortstop. The ball hit by Perkins booted off the shortstop's glove, rolling into the outfield, allowing Cujas to reach home safely and gave VCU a 6-5 lead.
The Dirtbags would strike back with single runs in both the eighth and ninth innings, including the decisive run on the wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth.
The Rams had a chance to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded and two outs, but Long Beach State pitcher Josh Frye was able to force the third and final out to get out of the situation, earning him the victory.
Freshman hurler Matt Lees took the loss for VCU, despite providing a solid performance out of the bullpen for 1 1/3rd inning.
The Rams and Dirtbags will finish the series tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m., to decide the winner of the three-game series.