RICHMOND, Va. – The late inning magic ran out on the Rams in Wednesday night's contest with No. 25 ranked Virginia. After winning a pair of games on Saturday in the late innings against William & Mary, the visiting Cavaliers turned the tide with three runs in the top of the ninth, to steal a 7-5 victory over the Rams in front of a season-high 3,427 in attendance at The Diamond.
Virginia's overall record improves to 28-14-1, while VCU drops to 22-19 on the year.
"It was a good game and I think the fans got their money's worth tonight," said VCU associate head coach Shawn Stiffler. "There were three lead changes throughout, with the last one coming on a very nice swing of the bat in the ninth and Virginia was able to earn the victory on that. I thought the crowd was outstanding, they gave us a boost in that middle part of the game, which really kept us in it mentally and allowed us to fight our way back into it."
The Cavaliers opened up the scoring in the top of the second, pushing across two runs in the frame.
Virginia extended its lead to 3-0 the following inning, with a lone run coming across on a bases loaded wild pitch by VCU freshman pitcher Heath Dwyer.
The Rams were able to cut into the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, by way of some patience at the plate. Junior infielder Jordan Weymouth and redshirt junior Brent Mikionis drew walks to put runners on first and second with two outs. Sophomore Chris Ayers then followed with the Rams first hit of the day, a triple off the wall in left center, which scored Weymouth and Mikionis.
The Cavaliers had a chance to break the game open in the top of the fifth, with runners on second and third and no outs. Stiffler called upon freshman hurler Matt Lees out of the bullpen, who forced an infield groundout for the first out, while allowing a run. After walking the next two batters to load the bases, Lees came back with a strikeout and an infield groundout to get out of the inning, holding Virginia to just one run in the inning.
The Rams took their first and only lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth, scoring three runs in the frame. Sophomore outfielder Bill Cullen led off with a single to left field, which extended his current hitting streak to 16 games. With one out and Cullen still planted on first, the Rams ran a hit-and-run with sophomore infielder Joey Cujas at the plate; Cujas lined a single up the middle to move Cullen to third. Mikionis followed with a single up the middle, which scored Cullen (pictured above) and advanced Cujas to second. Ayers then roped a double down the left field line, allowing Cujas to score and putting Mikionis on third. Mikionis would come around to score on a sacrifice fly to right by redshirt junior Taylor Buran.
The Cavaliers came fighting back in the top of the ninth, leading things off with Chris Taylor lining a single to center field. Taylor advanced to second on a wild pitch, before coming around to score on a one-out double to right center, which tied the score at 5-5. Virginia pulled ahead on a two-run home run to right field by Derek Fisher off VCU junior pitcher Blake Hauser.
The Rams were unable to come away with the tying runs in the bottom of the ninth, going down 1-2-3.
The Rams will turn their attention back to CAA play with a weekend series at Old Dominion scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. First pitch for Friday's contest is scheduled for 6 p.m.
"Our attention has to go back to CAA play, and we planned our pitching staff for the weekend around that tonight," added Stiffler. "It is going to be a good series and Old Dominion will be tough to beat at home. They have a couple of arms that you have to be ready to compete against and a number of talented hitters."