The Rams returned home from their weekend visit to Charleston, S.C. winners – a recurring theme for them this season. The three game sweep extends their perfect start to the season giving them an 8-0 record and edges them closer to matching the 11-0 start set by the 1989 team.
“It was a great ending to a great weekend,” said Coach Shawn Stiffler. “Our guys did a fabulous job this weekend and today we were led by our upperclassmen.”
VCU kicked off the weekend in dominating fashion by taking down UNC Asheville 12-1, setting season highs for runs scored (12) and hits (14). The Rams got on the scoreboard early when they scored four runs in the first inning, thanks to a lead-off home run by Bill Cullen. UNC Asheville’s lone run came in the second inning off a Hunter Bryant double that drove in Billy Creighton.
“It’s always great to score runs in the first inning. It allows us to put the other team on their heels right away,” Stiffler said.
Next for the Rams came tournament hosts The Citadel. In another game in which VCU never trailed, the Rams won 11-6. The real stars of the game were shortstop Vimael Machin and pitcher Matt Lees. Machin stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning and while on a 1-1 pitch, jacked the ball deep for a grand-slam which gave VCU an 8-2 lead. The shortstop finished the game going 2-4 at the plate and notching five RBI’s. Lees closed the game out well pitching 3.1 scoreless innings and striking out five.
“Vimael had the big blast and had a great night for us. I thought the home run really got us going,” Stiffler said. “Matt Lees came in and shut the door and was very dynamic for us at the end of the game.”
In the final game on Sunday, VCU faced Pittsburgh, who was looking to avoid a winless weekend. The Panthers gave the Rams all they could handle, but VCU emerged victorious 6-4. The Rams went down first in the bottom of the fourth inning, but by the ninth inning, took a 3-1 lead and hoped to hold on to that.
James Bunn stepped up to the plate first in the top of the ninth for VCU only to be walked by four straight balls. Next, Joey Cujas was hit by the pitch and moved to first himself giving the Rams two men on base. Shortly after, Machin stepped up and hit his second home run in as many games to give the Rams a 6-1 lead. Pittsburgh tried all they could to come back and scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the resilient Rams.
Ryan Farrar led the Rams pitching 8.2 innings and only giving up three hits, four runs – three earned – four balls, and one home run. He did, however, record 11 strikeouts and moved to 3-0 on the season.
“I thought Ryan Farrar was terrific. He went 8.2 innings and gave up four hits and a wind-blown home run, but that wasn’t indicative of the way he threw,” Stiffler said. “He is our senior leader and did a great job for us today.”
VCU outscored their opponents 45-16 over the eight game winning streak. In six of the eight wins, the Rams have allowed two or fewer runs to their opposition.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the guys and the coaches for the way we started off this season,” Stiffler said. “I am looking forward to getting back and getting better over spring break. We still have stuff to improve on and have two tough tests in Mason and Wilmington next week.”
The team doesn’t have a spring break – as stated by Stiffler – like the students do as they’ll be back at The Diamond in action against George Mason on Tuesday, Mar. 5 at 3 p.m.