Richmond junior catcher Evan Stehle entered the game in a 1-7 slump, but came out of it in a big way to help lift the University of Richmond baseball team to a 5-4 victory over Duquesne University.
With runners on first and second and two outs during the eighth inning, Stehle drove a 1-1 fastball to right field plating both runners. That gave Richmond a 5-4 lead and secured the Spiders their third win during four games.
"I had been struggling the past two games," Stehle said who had three RBIs on the day. "I stayed late after the game yesterday and came in early today to work on my swing. My hands had been slow."
The Dukes had gotten two runs off of reliever Billy Barber - who also was Richmond's designated hitter - during the top of the eighth to take the lead for the first time during the game at 4-3. Mark Tracy hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4 and Bill Torre brought home the go-ahead run when third baseman Cameron Brown threw wildly to first.
Richmond got a break early during the game when Duquesne designated hitter Anthony Manley was thrown out at home trying to score from third base on a pickoff attempt of centerfielder Andrew Heck.
"That was a huge play," Richmond coach Mark McQueen said. "I told our team to come out and play with the lead more. Getting that out might have been the ballgame."
Richmond jumped out to an early 3-0 lead off of Duquesne starter Gary Pierpont. First baseman Mike Mergenthaler hit a two-run single with one out and Stehle drove him in two batters later.
Pierpont settled in after that and gave up no more runs during the next six innings.
Richmond starter Matt Zielinski matched Pierpont's dominance. Zielinski went six innings and gave up only two runs while striking out six.
"He gave us what we needed," McQueen said. "Our bullpen was thin today after games on [April 16] against [Virginia Commonwealth University] and yesterday's game. Our pitchers had been giving us about five innings.
"I probably would have pulled him an inning earlier but he said that he could give us more."
Zelinski threw 95 pitches on the game and 61 were strikes. He gave up as many walks - two - as he did innings in which no Dukes reached base.
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"He located well today," Stehle said. "His velocity was faster today and he got his breaking balls over for strikes. That was key for him, getting more strikes."
Senior Brian Alas closed out the game for Richmond and picked up his fifth save this year.
Richmond evens its record to 16-16 and is now 6-8 in Atlantic 10 play. Stehle believes that his two-run double can lift the team through the rest of the season.
"As a whole our offense had been struggling," Stehle said. "We had been waiting for a big hit or something to get us going."
The win gives Richmond the series and it can sweep with a 1 p.m. game tomorrow. Richmond is two games behind Xavier University, which is in sixth place in the A-10 standings. The top six teams advance to the A-10 Tournament.
"Every game is important," McQueen said. "Not all games are do-or-die, but all are important."
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org
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