VCU and Liberty split a shortened series.
Friday’s game was canceled due to rain so the two schools only played 2 of their 3 scheduled games.
Two Starters Are Better Than One
Sean Thompson got the start in Saturday’s game, instead of his usual Friday appearance. He would split the start with Brooks Vial. Thompson pitched the first 3 innings and Vial took over for the next 4. The duo combined to bring VCU into the 8th inning without allowing a run. Thompson struck out 3 walked 1 and kept Liberty hitless. In Vial’s 4 innings he allowed 1 hit, 2 walks and struck out 4.
Vial was in line to earn the victory thanks to a 5th inning run scored by Logan Farrar. Paul Witt had a 2 out RBI single to break the scoreless tie. The Ram offense only supplied 1 run after 7 innings but with Sam Donko coming out of the bullpen to start the 8th, VCU’s 1 run lead seemed insurmountable.
Donko would put together a very uncharacteristic appearance. The closer allowed a hit to the first batter he faced in the 8th but 3 groundouts later he handed the baton back his offense.
In the bottom of the frame the Rams grabbed plenty of insurance. With 1 out Alex Gransback and Paul Witt hit back to back singles. Darian Carpenter blasted a towering homerun that found the parking lot beyond the left field wall. It was Carpenter’s 12th of the year and his RBI total to 40. He leads the Black and Gold in both categories.
Tough Outing For Sam
Donko was sent back out in the 9th to protect a lead that just inflated to 4-0. He was unable to hold the 4-run lead. After a ground out, Donko gave up 3 singles in a row. That fusillade gave Liberty their first run of the contest. After a walk the bases were loaded. Donko struck out the next hitter for out number 2. With a 4-1 lead, he was on the brink of avoiding a complete collapse, however he walked in a run to make it 4-2.
Then the Rams encountered a bit of tough luck. At 3rd base Daane Berezo had a ball bounce off his glove and into the outfield. The error allowed 2 runs to score, tying the game in the 9th. Shawn Stiffler stuck by his All-American despite the 4 runs he had already given up. With 2 runners on Donko managed to get a strike out to end the rally.
Walk It Off
Before the inning started, the game was on pace to be completed in about 2 ½ hours. VCU had no intentions a once quick game heading to extras. Zac Ching led off the bottom of the 9th with a double. He advanced to third on a wild pitch. With two outs Alex Gransback sent everyone home on walk-off single to left.
VCU earned their 30th victory of the season. Despite giving up 4 runs Donko was credited with the victory (3-3).
Seniors On Sunday
The Rams celebrated Senior Day before the game on Sunday. VCU has 10 seniors on the roster, they have been one of the most successful classes in VCU baseball history.
Saturday’s game saw temperatures in the low 60’s during an overcast afternoon. On Sunday, the heat was turned up with temps in the 80’s, mixed with a steady breeze to center field and the Diamond played like a little league ballpark for these teams. That was bad news for the starters in this one; Michael Dailey for VCU and Jackson Bertsch for Liberty.
In the 2nd inning Will Shepard got the power surge going with a 2-run homerun to right center. It was just Shepard’s 4th on the season. When a player with only 3 homers coming into the game hits one out to opposite field, at this ballpark, you know the power settings were turned up.
Darian Carpenter responded the following half inning by guiding a ball over the left field fence. Off the bat it looked like he got under the ball too much, the left fielder tracked it for a long time before finally giving up on what appeared to be a playable fly ball. It was Carpenter’s 13th of the season.
Brett Willett followed the senior in the batting lineup. The lefty crushed his 3rd homer out to his pull side. That shot tied the game at 2 but the score was very fluid during these couple of innings.
Dailey nearly put together a clean inning but a throwing error with two outs led to another display of power. Eric Grabowski sent his third homer over the left field fence, it was another 2-run shot for Liberty.
Take It Back
Again, trailing by 2 runs, the Rams responded with 3. Farrar hit a double which was followed with Gransback getting hit by a pitch. Witt brought Farrar in and sent Gransback to third with a double. Darian Carpenter popped a foul ball into foul territory, LU made the out but Gransback tagged from third to tie the game. With two away Zac Ching ambushed the defense with an RBI bunt. Ching gave his team a 5-4 lead after 3.
Going To The Pen
With a fresh bullpen, Stiffler was ready to get his starter out. Dailey gave up 4 runs but only 2 were earned, he walked 3 and struck out 2.
Senior Luke Crabb was the first arm to get the call. Crabb pitched the 4th inning, he allowed only a walk. In the 5th, Stiffler called upon Benjamin Dum, he provided another scoreless frame.
In the bottom 5th the Rams tacked on another run thanks to Ching’s second RBI of the day, scoring Willett.
Too Much Heat
Liberty immediately responded, scoring twice in the 6th and eventually taking the lead with a 2 run 8th. In the bottom half of that inning VCU put 3 base-runners on with 2 outs but were unable to bring anyone home. They now trailed 8-6 headed into the 9th.
Paul Witt led off with a single but the next 3 hitters failed to reach base.
The Rams dropped to 30-20 in their final home series of the year.
They will play at Richmond to end the regular season. If they win at least two games they will be A-10 regular season champions. That series begins next Thursday.
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