The #1 Seed
It’s A10 tournament time for VCU baseball. The Rams touched down in St. Louis earlier this week on the heels of a regular season conference title. They needed to win a couple games against Richmond to unseat Rhode Island for the top spot. VCU left no doubts by sweeping the series.
When they take the field on Thursday at 1:30 they will do so on a three game win streak.
The top seven schools qualify for the bracket. VCU as the one seed, earned the only bye in this tourney. The other six programs take the field on Wednesday, beginning at 10AM.
The Black and Gold await the winner of 4th seeded George Washington vs 5th seeded St. Louis. Shawn Stiffler’s guys won two of three against GW in early April. You can read about that series here: http://vcusports.com/baseball/vcu-baseball-rams-take-series-over-gw/.
SLU and VCU did not meet this season. The 4 seed compiled a 14-10 conference record; the 5 seed went 12-10 in the league.
The One To Watch
The Wednesday game VCU fans should pay most attention to is the Rhode Island/ George Mason. When URI claimed first place in the conference in early May, George Mason opened the door for the Rams to win a regular season championship. The Patriots won their penultimate A10 series of the year. They stole two wins from URI in three games each decided by a run. That was the last conference set for Rhody, they could only watch while VCU made up the requisite ground to reclaim first place.
URI was the preseason favorite, the also own the best RPI in the A10 at 61. VCU is second with an RPI sitting just outside the top 100. The next closest teams in the conference are three teams grouped in the 150’s. Clearly URI and VCU are the teams to beat in this tournament however; neither team owns an at-large resume. It’s A10 tournament championship or bust.
The Rams still haven’t met each other this season that could change on Friday if Rhody wins their first two games and the regular season champs win their game on Thursday.
With seven teams, the bracket is a little complicated; you can check it out here: http://www.atlantic10.com/fls/31600/pdfs/17-base-bracket.pdf?CONTENT_ID=1872562&DB_OEM_ID=31600.
Compared to their conference peers, VCU’s road to an NCAA berth is more favorable, thanks to their status as regular season champs.
From VCU’s perspective, it’s essentially a double elimination tournament. If they win on Thursday they will play on Friday at noon against one of four potential teams. The winner of #2URI and #7GMU vs the winner of #3 St. Bonaventure and #6 Davidson will decide who meets the #1 seed.
A win on Friday puts them in the championship match up on Saturday, needing just one win to win the tournament.
If the regular season champs lose on Thursday they will play an elimination game against the worst team (seed wise) from the three Wednesday match-ups. With a victory they will play another elimination game on Friday to earn a chance to play on Saturday for the NCAA auto bid.
A loss at any point means VCU will play a double header to stay alive. Having to win game two in a double header in order to stay alive is a daunting task. Even if they win, the damage a double header could do to a bullpen might be enough to cause elimination the next day.
They’ve Got The Goods
In tournaments like this you need long and effective performances from you starters and a few timely hits. VCU has the starting pitching to strive for three wins in as many days. Their weekend starters all own ERA’s under 4. They also have the offense to push across enough run support. They have excellent bats in the top half of their lineup; Paul Witt leading the A10 in AVG, Logan Farrar tied for 4th in doubles and Darian Carpenter 4th in Slugging %. Shawn Stiffler also has the depth to pull plenty of quality bats off the bench.
VCU fans are familiar with long A10 tournament runs, hopefully the Black and Gold get to stay in St. Louis through Saturday and add anther tournament championship to the program’s resume.
NCAA teams and regions will be announced on Monday. VCU must be the last team standing in St. Louis to get their name called next week.