The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Eighth-inning rally gives Spiders win over VCU

The University of Richmond baseball team rallied in the eighth inning to defeat Virginia Commonwealth University 8-6 on Tuesday night at The Diamond in the first game of the Farm Bureau Black & Blue Classic.

It was Richmond's first win against VCU since an 8-6 victory on May 14, 2004, a game that was also played at The Diamond.

Junior Billy Barber drove in the first run for the Spiders in the first inning with an RBI double that curled just inside the right-field line and scored sophomore Derek Boliek from second base. VCU matched the Spiders, scoring a run of its own in first inning.

Richmond did not score in the second, but were had many hard-hit outs against starting pitcher Michael Graham.

During the third inning, junior Mike Mergenthaler doubled over the left fielder's head, and Barber added another hit, driving in Mergenthaler from second base.

Richmond starting pitcher Brain Farrell, a left-hander from Ridgewood, N.J., was sharp in the early innings, retiring the VCU batters in order during the third inning and shutting out the Rams again in the fourth inning.

"It was Brain Farrell's best outing of the season," Richmond coach Mark McQueen said. "He's been struggling throwing strikes. Today he came out mixed his pitches really well... I'm very proud of the way he threw today."

McQueen was the pitching coach at VCU from 2001-2007, and was named 2003 Collegiate Baseball National Pitching Coach of the Year.

The Spiders added two more runs in the fifth inning, making the score 4-1, but they could not hold their lead.

Rams right fielder John Lenherr started the bottom of the fifth inning with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. A throwing error by senior catcher Even Stehle allowed Lenherr to score. A home run by catcher Nathan Furry that carried just over the left-field wall near the foul pole resulted in Farrell being pulled for senior right-hander Jay Jones.

Jones gave up a walk, two hits, and two runs before the end of the fifth inning, and the Rams took the lead 5-4.

Senior right-hander Ian Marshall relieved Jones and kept the Rams scoreless in the sixth.

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In the bottom of the seventh, Mergenthaler dropped a pop up that was high over first base and the Rams extended their lead to 6-4.

The Spiders put themselves in good position to score during the eighth inning. Senior right fielder Victor Croglio got hit by a pitch and center fielder Robby Massar blooped a single over second base to put runners on first and second.

The Rams made pitching change, calling on junior right-hander Jonathan Watson. He hit a batter, gave up a two-RBI single to Boliek, walked Mergenthaler, and then hit two more Spiders with pitches.

The Rams went back to the bullpen for senior Robbie Brown, who got sophomore Chris Cowell to pop up to end the inning. The Spiders led 8-6 going into the bottom of the eighth.

Barber completed a two-inning save for the Spiders, his fourth save of the year.

"We hadn't beat these guys in awhile," sophomore shortstop Adam McConnell said. "They're our cross-town rivals. It felt good to show them who runs this town."

Contact reporter Zak Kozuchowski at

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