The VCU baseball team began fall ball at the Diamond on Sept. 25, looking to improve on a 28-26 2013 season, which included a 12-12 record against conference opponents in the Rams’ inaugural season in the Atlantic 10.
VCU’s fall ball features practices and inter-squad scrimmages. The scrimmages are open to the public and will be held Mondays at 3 p.m., Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m. at the Diamond.
The annual Black and Gold World Series will begin Monday, Oct. 28, and continue Wednesday, Oct. 30 and Friday, Nov. 1.
Head coach Shawn Stiffler, who received a contract extension this past July, is ready to get a preliminary look at his team.
“Our guys have been working really hard in individual workouts and the weight room so we’re all excited to get back on the field and compete,” Stiffler told VCU Athletics. “It’s the first time we’re able to come together as a complete team. Not only do we want to get some situational work in, but it’s a crucial time for us to improve as a group. We’re eager to get started.”
Stiffler said he is excited that this year’s recruiting class appears to meet team needs. The incoming class features a combination of 13 freshmen and transfers, including six Virginia natives. The Rams’ new recruits include six pitchers, three infielders, two outfielders, a catcher and a two-way player.
Among the most notable freshmen is infielder Darian Carpenter, who joins the team as the highest-ranked third baseman and 15th-best player in the state, according to PerfectGame.org.
In his senior season at Varina High School, Carpenter batted .430 with five homeruns. Carpenter could help improve the Rams’ .269 batting average, which ranked 166th in the NCAA a season ago.
“Darian has emerged over the last couple of years as one of the most prolific power hitters in the Mid-Atlantic Region,” Stiffler told VCU Athletics. “His advanced feel for hitting and his power to all fields will make him a staple in the middle of our lineup for years to come.”
Also joining the team will be Pennsylvania natives and freshman infielders Shane Dressler and Matt Davis.
Dressler is ranked as the fourth-best player in Pennsylvania, according to Prep Baseball Report. He batted .447 with 23 RBI and 19 runs scored as a junior at Red Land High School.
Davis, the 26th-ranked player in Pennsylvania according to PerfectGame.org, is also expected to contribute at the plate. Over his last two seasons at Cumberland Valley High School, Davis hit .351 with seven homeruns and 33 RBI.
Stiffler’s incoming class also addressed pitching needs after a season in which the team finished 88th in the nation with a 3.87 team ERA.
Santa Ana College transfer Matt Blanchard comes to Richmond hoping to make an immediate impact. In two seasons at Santa Ana, Blanchard went 8-3 with a 1.86 ERA. He also recorded 94 strikeouts and held opposing batters to a .164 batting average.
“Matt is a versatile arm that has experience both on the back end of games as well as the starting role,” Stiffler told VCU Athletics. “He’s a power arm whose fastball has reached over 90 mph and has a strikeout pitch with his slider.”
Other incoming players include catcher Joe Bugas, outfielder Alex Gransback, infielder/outfielder Logan Farrar, pitchers JoJo Howie, Matt Jamer, Daniel Concepcion, Thomas Gill and Brian Goodling, and the pitcher/infielder Brett Hileman.
The Rams are preparing for a competitive A-10 as they wait for the 2014 schedule to be released.
One bright spot can be found in Butler’s departure from the A-10. The Rams lost all three games to the Bulldogs in 2013.