All the makings of a dramatic victory were there for the University of Richmond. Freshman Mike Small was at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 10th with a runner on first and Richmond trailing by one. But it was not meant for Small to be the hero.
Small lined a pitch down the left-field line which would have surely scored pinch runner Adam Forrer and tied the game. Instead, it landed foul by a few inches and on the next pitch, Small struck out looking to end the game to give Old Dominion the 3-2 win in 10 innings.
Kenny Stoneback started the 10th for Old Dominion with a hit down to left field off of relief pitcher Alex Maffett, who was in his fourth inning of work, and raced to second barely ahead of the throw from left fielder Phil Ruzbarsky. After a sacrifice bunt moved Stoneback to third, Brandon Shelton drove him in with a sacrifice fly to right field. Richmond right fielder Mike Mergenthaler would have had a chance to throw Stoneback out at the plate, but he initially took two steps in and had to retreat to catch the ball. That left him in a bad position to make a strong throw and Stoneback easily crossed the plate.
Richmond (1-3) had a chance to get Stoneback out during Shelton's at bat. On the second pitch of the at bat, Shelton squared to set up a squeeze to try to bring in Stoneback. But McQueen did not want Maffet to throw that pitch.
"I was a little bit upset" at Maffett, McQueen said. "When I went out to talk to him, I told him the second pitch we were going to pick over to third base and that's the pitch they tried to squeeze on. I think we would have had him if we had executed."
In a game where chances to score runs were rare, the Monarchs were able to capitalize on their chances while the Spiders struggled to drive in a run. The Spiders got a runner on base in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th inning but failed to score any of them.
Richmond's best chance to go ahead was during the seventh when sophomore Bret Williams was able to reach on an infield single. After freshman Nick Poulos entered the game as a pinch runner for Williams, he ended up on third with two outs in the inning after advancing on a ground out and a wild pitch. But junior Derek Boliek, the seventh hitter in Richmond's lineup, struck out and left Poulos on third.
"That was the difference in the game," McQueen said. "We didn't situational hit today and they did. They got the job done."
At the start of the game, it didn't appear that Richmond would have to rely on a late-inning hit to provide the difference in the game. Richmond jumped on freshman Louis Singleton, who had given up two runs in 1.1 innings in his only other appearance this year, early, getting both of its runs in the first inning.
Senior Mike Mergenthaler hit a one-out double over the head of right fielder Nathan Hartman to start the first-inning attack. Sophomore Jacob Mayers followed that up with a double of his own, pulling the ball into left field and scoring Mergenthaler. Mayers would then score on a pair of wild pitches later that inning.
"When Mergs hit that ball to right field and he got on second, I knew one thing, that I had to get him in somehow," Mayers said. "So I was trying to see something off speed maybe and pull it down the line."
It was the first of three hits on the day for Mayers, the reigning Atlantic 10 Conference player of the week. So far this season, Mayers is batting .588 with 4 RBI and 4 doubles. He also pitched six innings and allowed one run Friday at Duke University.
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"Jake's on fire right now," McQueen said. "I hope it gets contagious a little bit around the dugout."
Richmond did not get much more off of Singleton, who went five innings and gave up three hits.
"He found the strike zone a little bit better and moved the ball out of the strike zone when he needed to," McQueen said. "We just got to cut down on our strike outs. We have to do a better job of two-strike hitting."
Although Singleton recorded just one strikeout, three Monarch pitchers combined to strike out seven Spiders the rest of the game. Senior Adam Wisniewski struck out the side during the 10th to pick up his second save of the year.
Richmond starting pitcher Shawn O'Neill pitched six effective innings, giving up just a pair of runs during the third. He was one out away from getting out of the third without giving up a run but a two-out single by Shelton and two batters later, a single by Christopher Baker brought in a pair of runs.
It was the second career start for the sophomore and McQueen said that he did not plan on using him that long. He had Maffett get up in the bullpen during the fourth inning.
"He went probably two innings farther than I thought he would," McQueen said.
Richmond does not have much time to recover from this loss as it hosts Coppin State at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Richmond's starting pitcher has yet to be announced but it is between Williams and Chris Bates, both lefties.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at email@example.com
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