LYNCHBURG, Va. – Virginia Commonwealth University held a 6-0 lead after two innings but Liberty rallied to tie the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth and went on to defeat the Rams 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday evening at Worthington Field.
Trailing 7-4, Liberty (32-20) scored twice in the seventh before Matt Williams hit his second homer of the day to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. After VCU (21-30) went down quietly in the top of the tenth, Ryan Cordell and Casey Rasmus reached on back-to-back singles and Austin Taylor came through with a base hit up the middle as the Flames defeated the Rams in their final at-bat in Lynchburg for the second year in a row.
Last season, Tyler Bream hit a walk-off home run to defeat the Rams in the bottom of the ninth.
Senior Michael Cheatham (pictured, right) went 4-for-5 with four RBI and a triple, while freshman Bill Cullen and junior Paul Nice each collected a pair of hits for VCU. The Rams belted a season-high three triples in their 11-hit attack.
Dane Beaker, who improved to 3-0 with the win, tossed two scoreless innings with one hit and a pair of strikeouts. Senior reliever Jonathan Watson took the loss after surrendering two runs on six hits in the final three frames.
After a 44-minute rain delay prior to the game, VCU jumped out to an early lead with a three-run first inning. Cullen and Nice collected back-to-back singles and freshman Joey Cujas was hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out. The Rams cleanup batter Cheatham then plated a pair with a single into right center and a RBI groundout by junior Taylor Perkins eventually gave the Rams a 3-0 advantage.
VCU starter Ryan Farrar made quick work of Liberty in the bottom of the frame and VCU added three more runs in the second. Freshman Chris Ayers drew a leadoff walk and scored on a triple by Cullen into deep center. Nice then delivered a RBI single through the left side and scored on a triple by Cheatham, which extended VCU's lead to 6-0.
Liberty got on the board in the bottom of the second after four straight hits with two outs. Rasmus doubled off the right field wall and scored on a base hit by Taylor, before Ian Parmley made it a four-run game with a RBI single into right.
The Flames continued to rally and added two more in the third to pull within 6-4. Williams led off the inning with a blast over the left field fence and Justin Sizemore, who doubled a batter later, scored on a groundout by Cordell which cut the deficit to two.
Cujas led off the fifth with a triple into center, the Rams third of the day, and Cheatham collected his fourth RBI with a single into right to push VCU's lead to 7-4.
However, Liberty took advantage of a pair of leadoff walks and pulled within a run in the seventh. Parmley and Michael Robertson were issued free passes to start the inning before a pinch hit single by Justin Richardson made it a two-run game. Bream followed with a sacrifice fly to cut the Rams' lead to one.
Williams completed the rally and tied it in the bottom of the ninth when he lifted his second home run of the day down the left field line. Back-to-back singles by Cordell and Rasmus put the winning runner in scoring position with no outs in the bottom of the tenth. Taylor then came through with a single up the middle to cap the Liberty rally.
VCU concludes the regular season with a three-game series at UNC Wilmington beginning Thursday, May 19 at 6 p.m.