Fresh off the emotional victory over Old Dominion in the Key Dog Strikeout Cancer Classic on Tuesday, VCU baseball traveled to Philadelphia, Pa. for a tough road series against top-ranked La Salle.
Sitting in tenth place, the Rams needed at least two wins over the Explorers to keep the postseason within reach.
La Salle jumped out to an early 2-0 lead by the second inning. Kevin Conroy’s fly out to center field in the first inning scored Dan Klem from second base. Then, George Smith, Jr. doubled the Explorers lead in the second with an RBI single to center field.
VCU cut into the lead in the third inning. James Bunn and Joey Cujas reached base following walks. Vimael Machin reached base after an error, bringing in Bunn for the unearned run.
The final run came from La Salle in the sixth after a Mark Williams double to left field scored Conroy.
After VCU loaded the bases in the eighth, La Salle brought in Pat Christensen to close and escaped with the win.
Heath Dwyer threw his third complete game of the season and brought his record to 5-5.
Again, La Salle jumped out to a quick lead, this time with three runs in the first inning.
Klem was walked to lead off before a double from Kevin Baron rounded him to third. Conroy then singled into right field, scoring Klem. Justin Korenblatt’s single scored Baron, giving the Explorers a two-run lead with no outs.
Williams grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but not before Korenblatt reached third. The third run came after Joey Ravert doubled down the left field line, scoring Korenblatt.
It wouldn’t take long for VCU to get on the board, though. In the third, Landon Prentiss led off with a single. Machin followed with a single of his own, allowing Prentiss to reach third. Chris Ayers jacked a ball up the middle, allowing both base runners to reach home.
The next inning, the Explorers would see their lead diminish after Jordan Weymouth homered over the left field wall, tying the score at 3-3.
A pair of runs in the fifth and sixth innings would allow La Salle to retake the lead. Korenblatt doubled off the left field wall in the fifth, allowing Klem to score all the way from first. With two men on base the following inning, Ryan Welling scored after a Klem single to left field.
In the seventh, the Rams would inch closer to La Salle again. Machin led off with a triple and then was immediately brought home by a Cujas single up the middle.
Again La Salle brought in Christensen who tossed 2.1 scoreless innings for the Explorers and clinched the series win for the home team.
It was the Rams who would jump out to an early lead in the final game of the series.
Taylor Buran reached base after a single to left field and then stole second during Weymouth’s subsequent at-bat. Brett Mikionis grounded out, advancing Buran and Weymouth to third and second respectively. Prentiss stepped up and roped a double into left field, scoring the pair of base runners and giving VCU its first lead of the weekend.
By the end of the fifth, La Salle would eliminate VCU’s two-run lead. Conroy led off the fourth with a home run to left center field. Welling doubled to lead off the fifth before he was driven home after Klem dropped a single into right field.
VCU would regain the lead in the sixth with a pair of runs from Trevor Marino and Prentiss.
Mikionis doubled down the left field line and then advanced to third after a Prentiss single. Marino then replaced Mikionis as the pinch runner. Nick Octavi was then walked, loading the bases for the Rams with one out.
Bill Cullen grounded out to the shortstop, allowing Marino to score from third. A couple batters later, Cujas reached first off an error, allowing Prentiss to score an unearned run.
A final insurance run was added in the ninth. Weymouth reached base after an Explorers’ error and was brought in shortly after from an Octavi single to center field.
“It’s good to get the last one of the weekend,” head coach Shawn Stiffler said. “Everybody in the lineup had a hit for us today and Landon Prentiss came up with the big two-out, two-RBI double.”
Although he praised the team’s play, Stiffler quickly changed his tone.
“It is a disappointing weekend,” he said. “Our expectations are always to make plays to give us an opportunity to win games and we didn’t do a good job of that this weekend. We have to continue to do that if we want to be the best baseball team we can be.”
The win gets the Rams back to .500 and keeps them in tenth place, three spots out of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
VCU returns home for a game against U.Va. on Tuesday before a weekend series at The Diamond against second-place Saint Louis.