RICHMOND, Va. – The VCU Baseball team picked up an emotional 6-4 victory over cross-town rival University of Richmond on Tuesday night, in front of 724 in attendance at The Diamond.
Prior to the game, players and staff from both teams exchanged gold and red wristbands, in support of VCU head coach Paul Keyes. Keyes, who was on hand for the game, is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.
"It was an emotional game and I thought our guys were able to harness that and really turn it into some fabulous play on the field," said VCU associate head coach Shawn Stiffler. "What happened prior to the game was fantastic. The players and staff from University of Richmond, could not have been any classier than they were tonight. Not just them, but having the grounds crew, the umpires and everyone in the stadium involved turned it into a special moment and special night overall."
The Spiders jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, pushing across a pair of runs off VCU freshman pitcher Heath Dwyer.
The Rams did most of their damage in the bottom of the second inning, scoring five runs in the frame off Richmond pitcher Brett Williams. Freshman infielder Vimael Machin led off with a double to center field, before advancing to third on an infield groundout by redshirt junior Brent Mikionis. Machin would come around to score on a single into shallow center field by senior catcher Kyle Sutherland. Senior outfielder Paul Nice then drew a pitch off his arm to put runners on first and second; it marked the 49th career hit-by-pitch for the Powhatan, Va., native, just one shy of matching the VCU program record set by Kwan Evans (2004-08).
Sophomore outfielder Bill Cullen plated Mikionis and Nice with a double down the left field line, handing VCU a 3-2 lead. After junior infielder Jordan Weymouth drew a pitch in his side, sophomore infielder Joey Cujas lined a single through the left side to score Cullen. Weymouth would later score on a sacrifice fly to center by sophomore designated hitter Chris Ayers.
VCU would add to its lead in the bottom of the third inning, scoring one run off Richmond's James Lively. Mikionis drew a leadoff walk, before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by redshirt junior outfielder Taylor Buran. Mikionis would come around to score on a single to center by Nice, handing VCU a 6-2 lead.
Richmond would manufacture a run in the fifth and ninth innings, but it was not enough to overcome the Rams lead.
VCU sophomore pitcher Ryan Morrison (pictured right) earned the victory, pitching two-thirds of an inning in relief of Dwyer in the top of the fifth inning. VCU senior pitcher Kyle Pelchy earned his first save of the season, after pitching the eighth and ninth innings.
The Rams will head to Harrisonburg, Va., this week for a pivotal series with the Dukes of James Madison. VCU is fighting for a spot in the upcoming CAA Tournament, with just three league games remaining.
"We have to be ready to go down to JMU and take care of business one more time," added Stiffler. "A series victory is important for our chances of playing in the CAA Tournament. In order to do that, we need to play hard, catch the baseball and get some good pitching performances."