The Collegian
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Darkness forces Richmond's game to end in a tie

University of Richmond freshman Nick Poulos struck out with the bases loaded to end the 10th inning and force Richmond's game against state-rival Virginia Military Institute to end in a 6-6 tie Tuesday evening at Pitt Field.

Pitt Field, which does not have lights, started to get dark during the ninth inning and it was decided before the 10th inning that it would be the last inning of the game. Freshman Chris Bates came on to pitch the 10th for Richmond and got all three Keydets out that he faced to give the Spiders the opportunity to win it with their last at bat.

The 10th started off promising for Richmond with Derek Boliek reaching second base after a throwing error on his bunt attempt. Freshman Mike Small tried to sacrifice him over to third but instead laid a bunt down the third-base line that went for a single but kept Boliek at second. Leadoff hitter Robby Massar put down Richmond's third-straight bunt but this one was too hard and Boliek was forced out at third.

Senior Mike Mergenthaler nearly ended the game when his fly ball out to center field was caught on the warning track. Small tagged up on the play and put runners on first and third for Jake Mayers, a .444 hitter. The Keydets decided to intentionally walk him and face Poulos, who had come on as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. VMI pitcher Michael Devine got Poulos to strike out on three pitches to end the game.

Monday's overnight rain storm pushed the start of the game back 30 minutes, which prevented the play of a possible 11th inning. Even though both teams meet again on March 30 in Lexington, Va., both managers agreed that Tuesday's result would stand.

"[VMI manager Marlin Ikenberry] asked me if there was any chance it getting dark on us and I knew with the sun out today and everything I said 'We should be fine, the only thing that could cost us was if we went to extra innings'," Richmond manager Mark McQueen said. "And sure enough we did. We just decided before the game that we would finish it here no matter what rather than finish it at their place."

Massar sent the game into extra innings with a two-run single during the eighth inning. The Spiders entered that inning trailing by three, but first baseman Ryan Mallory hit an RBI single to pull them within two. With one out and the bases loaded, Massar singled to left field on a 1-1 pitch and complete the Spiders' rally from a 6-1 deficit.

"I had come up with the bases loaded before [during the sixth] and struck out and I was just looking to put something in play," Massar said. "I saw they were in and the [pitcher] was throwing pretty good so I was just trying to put something in play and make them use the ball and maybe see if they throw it away."

Not only was Massar's hit important for this game, it also showed that the Spiders have the capability to get a critical hit. All season long they have struggled to get a hit with runners in scoring position and Tuesday was no different. During the fifth and sixth inning, Richmond had the bases loaded twice and combined to score two runs with one of them coming on a Mallory sacrifice fly.

Richmond did leave 13 runners on base Tuesday, but the eighth inning did represent improvement.

"That's the way this team played all fall," McQueen said. "We played that way last year and I think this team's ready to start playing that way right now."

The early innings were not pretty for Richmond after it had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on a run scored on a VMI error. Richmond starting pitcher Bret Williams was hit hard the second time through VMI's lineup and gave up four runs (two were unearned) during his four innings of work as Williams' defense let him down a little bit.

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Williams struck out the first two batters to start the fourth but on the second one, the third strike got by catcher Chris Cowell and Rob Dickinson was able to reach first. After consecutive singles left the bases loaded, Williams got Graham Sullivan to strike out which should have ended the inning. But since it was only the second out, that allowed George Piccirilli to bat and he laced a two RBI single to right field.

The two runs that scored during the third were the fault of Williams. He gave up a lead-off single to Sam Roberts and Sullivan made him pay with a home run to right field, which gave VMI a 2-1 lead.

"He was struggling all day long to get his pitches down, even in the bullpen warming up" McQueen said of Williams. "It was something I noticed and he just left a couple pitches up."

Three Richmond pitches pitched the remaining six innings, with half of them coming from Alex Maffett. He gave up two runs during his first inning of work but both were unearned after a pair of throwing errors by third baseman Jake Mayers and right fielder Mike Mergenthaler.

Richmond will host Marist College for a three-game series starting March 4 at 2:30 p.m.

Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at andrew.prezioso@richmond.edu

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