Earlier this season, the University of Richmond struggled to make contact when it had runners in scoring position, often time striking out and preventing any chance of scoring a run. But after weeks of trying to get his players ready to hit in these situations, Richmond manager Mark McQueen saw his players explode for eight runs in the fourth inning to carry it to a 9-2 victory Saturday afternoon over La Salle.
Six players drove in a run that inning as 12 Spiders hit that inning. Senior Derek Boliek started the scoring barrage as he drove in Richmond's first run with a single to right field, one pitch after attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt. By the time Richmond had knocked out La Salle's Eric Van Wyk, who entered the game with an ERA under 3, Richmond had jumped out to a 5-2 lead.
Reliever Cody Weiss fared no better that inning. He allowed Chris Cowell, who had doubled off of Van Wyk to knock him out of the game, to score and then allowed two more runs to score.
Richmond benefited from a couple of breaks and an error by La Salle during the fourth. With Matt Zink on second and JB Gadd on first, they advanced a base on a wild pitch but catcher Marc Schoch tried to throw Gadd out at second. His throw was awry though, and Gadd ended up on third while Zink scored to give Richmond a 4-2 lead. Cowell later reached on a double that gave center fielder George Smith trouble and ended up bouncing off of his wrist as he tried to make a diving catch. Chris Bell drove in the final run that inning with a bloop down the right field line that fell among the right fielder, first baseman and second baseman.
"I think earlier this season, when we had runners in scoring position, we were pressing a little, trying too hard to get the job done," Boliek said. "Now, we just relax at the plate have more confidence in ourselves. It's really showed off recently."
The eight-run bottom of the fourth came in response to the Explorers taking a lead in the top of the inning. Richmond starter Chris Bates gave up a lead-off single and after getting the next batter to pop out to the second baseman, Schoch drove a 1-2 pitch well over the left-field wall to give La Salle a 2-0 lead.
Bates would stay in the game for two more batters before leaving the game holding his right side. McQueen had senior Anthony Cafagna warming up in the bullpen — who had gotten up before the home run — and brought him in as an injury replacement.
McQueen said he had seen signs from Bates that he was not completely healthy.
"His velocity was down," McQueen said. "He didn't look comfortable out there and I didn't want to take any chances of hurting him. I thought it would be a good time to get Anthony in there."
McQueen said that Bates will be examined to determine the severity of the injury.
Cafagna went the final 5.1 innings to close out the win and pick up his sixth win of the year. He gave up six hits and waled two, but struck out five and held the Explorers scoreless for the rest of the game.
"It's great to have a senior who we can put in a situation like that, somebody who's been through the war before," McQueen said. "I have a lot of confidence for him to come out and throw strikes. He did a great job."
Richmond has taken the first two from La Salle, which entered the series in second in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings. Richmond is now 9-5 in the A-10 and with a win tomorrow, can overtake La Salle in the standings and put itself in a good position to make the A-10 tournament.
"It's my fourth year here and we haven't been there yet," Boliek said. "With the way we're playing, I think we have a really good chance to do that."
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at email@example.com