NORFOLK, Va. – The VCU Baseball team remained in the hunt for a spot in next month's CAA tournament, with a 7-6 victory over Old Dominion on Saturday night at the Bud Metheny Complex.
The Rams improve to 23-20 overall, including 10-13 in the CAA with just seven league games remaining this season. Old Dominion drops to 16-26 overall and 6-14 in the CAA.
The Rams pulled ahead for good in the top of the ninth, with senior outfielder Paul Nice starting things off with a one-out single to the third baseman. Sophomore outfielder Bill Cullen reached on a fielding error by the second baseman, which allowed Nice to advance to second, before junior infielder Jordan Weymouth drew a pitch off his arm to load the bases for VCU. Sophomore infielder Joey Cujas followed with a sacrifice fly to score Nice from third for the eventual game-winning run.
Junior pitcher Blake Hauser returned to the mound for the bottom of the ninth, after recording the final out of the eighth. Hauser (pictured right) managed to force a fly ball to left field for the first out, then fanned the next two batters to close out the game and earn the victory for the Rams.
"It was an exciting, back-and-forth affair between the two teams," said VCU associate head coach Shawn Stiffler. "It was one of those deals in which whoever's bullpen could settle in first, was going to win the game. We did a little bit of a shakeup with our lineup tonight and it paid off, with the guys having good at-bats and we were able to take advantage of some hit-by-pitches and walks."
VCU put together a 2-0 advantage in the top of the third inning, with senior catcher Taylor Perkins belting a one-out single. After Nice fouled out to the first baseman, Cullen roped a double to right field to put runners on second and third. Weymouth came to the plate and dropped a bunt down the third base line, which the ODU third baseman collected and threw wide of first base, allowing both Nice and Cullen to score.
Old Dominion posted a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth, to knot the score at 2-2.
A solo home run by Michael Perez handed the Monarchs their first lead of the contest, giving the home side a 3-2 advantage.
The Rams countered with two runs of their own in the top of the sixth, to retake the lead. After Nice led off with a single, Cullen and Weymouth reached on back-to-back hit-by-pitches to load the bases. Cujas lined a full count single up the middle, to plate Nice and Cullen.
Old Dominion pushed across three runs in the bottom of the sixth, with all three runs coming off VCU freshman pitcher Matt Lees.
The Rams, trailing 6-4, manufactured a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to tie the score at 6-6. Freshman infielder Vimael Machin lined a single up the middle to get things going, before Perkins roped a single through the left side. Nice followed with a single to left field, which enabled Machin to score and cut the ODU lead to one. After Cullen was plunked in the side to load the bases, Weymouth lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to plate Perkins.
Nice led the charge offensively for the Rams, going three-for-four at the plate with one RBI and two runs scored.
The two teams will close out the series on Sunday afternoon, with the first pitch in the deciding game scheduled for 2 p.m.
"We got pretty deep into the bullpen today, so we will need a good performance from senior Kyle Haynes tomorrow," added Stiffler. "We have a pretty veteran group, so they will be prepared. Every game from here on out is an elimination game for us and we are playing that way."