The Collegian
Saturday, October 01, 2022

Richmond sweeps Niagara in season-opening series

The University of Richmond baseball team completed its season-opening sweep of Niagara University on Sunday, Feb. 22, at Pitt Field.

It's the first time the Spiders have opened their season 3-0 since 2004.

"Everyone played real well for the opening weekend," Richmond coach Mark McQueen said. "It's a good start but it's a long way from a conference championship."

The Spiders trailed 2-0 heading into the bottom of the third, but responded with a three-run inning. Freshman Matt Zink hit a double to start the inning. Redshirt junior Victor Croglio laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Niagara pitcher freshman Joe Candelmo threw widely to first, allowing Zink to score and Croglio to advance to second base.

After Croglio went to third base on a pass ball, freshman Adam McConnell scored Croglio with his single to center field. The Spiders then loaded the bases with no outs when redshirt junior Cameron Brown and redshirt senior Ryan Metzroth hit back to back singles.

After a pop-out by sophomore Billy Barber, sophomore Mike Mergenthaler hit a sacrifice fly to left field to bring home McConnell. That proved to be all the runs needed to beat the Purple Eagles after the Spider pitchers shut down the Niagara offense.

Redshirt junior Stephen Owens started the game and gave up two runs during six innings of work. Richmond used three relievers to finish up the three innings and gave up no runs.

"We had great pitching by Stephen," Metzroth said. "When you keep the other team to two runs, it's easier to win."

Richmond opened up the game with a four-run sixth inning. Niagara brought in senior Mark Sikorski to start the inning and McConnell bunted for a single on the first pitch he saw. He went to second on senior Matt Lucchesi's throwing error on the bunt. He advanced to third when redshirt junior Cameron Brown grounded out to third.

With a drawn-in Niagara infield, Metzroth hit a line-drive single to left to bring in McConnell. Metzroth later scored on an error by Niagara freshman Keith Picconi.

The big blow of the inning came off the bat of junior Evan Stehle. Metzroth was on first base after the error by Picconi, and Stehle had a 2-0 count. The pitch from Sikorski was a fastball, and Stehle crushed a home run to left-center field to give Richmond an 8-2 lead.

"I didn't get much to hit this weekend," Stehle said. "I finally got a fastball and I tried to put a good swing on it."

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In the bottom of the fifth, senior Kyle Leith hit a double to right field that scored Mergenthaler, giving Richmond a 4-2 lead.

The Spiders added one more run in the bottom of the eighth. Stehle reached base on a one-out walk and scored on freshman pinch hitter Phil Ruzbarsky's fielder's choice.

Richmond stole two bases during the game, raising the weekend total to 17. Last year, Richmond stole only 51 bases.

"We work on base running every practice," McQueen said. "We are working on base stealing and getting good jumps."

Richmond won its first game Saturday night 8 p.m. to 6 p.m., then captured the second game 16-9 on Sunday.

Richmond looks to continue its perfect start to its season with a one-game trip to Longwood University for a 2:30 p.m. game on Feb. 24.

Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at

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