For University of Richmond baseball team, a "Small" absence could be making a big difference. On a rainy Friday evening at Pitt Field, the Spiders lost the opener of a three-game conference series with the University of Rhode Island, 3-2.
The game was the first for Richmond since losing starting shortstop Mike Small for the season as he recently underwent surgery for a dislocated ankle and broken fibula in his right leg. The injury was sustained in Richmond's game with the University of Virginia Wednesday night.
"It definitely affected this game," Richmond manager Mark McQueen said Small's injury. "And it's going to affect every game here the rest of the way. It's like a basketball team losing their point guard; he's our leadoff hitter, he's our shortstop and he's played every inning of every game up to this point, but it's part of the game."
As for Friday's game, Richmond outhit the Rams 8-5 and was tied with its Atlantic-10 Conference foe until the top of the ninth inning. Both of the Spiders' runs came off one of Rhode Island's five errors for the game.
Tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth with one out and a runner on second, relief pitcher Alex Maffett had pitch get away from him that allowed the runner to move over to third. On the next pitch, Rams catcher Milan Adams hit a ball just past the outstretched arm of Richmond's second baseman for the game-winning RBI single.
Richmond's starting pitcher, Bret Williams (5-1), threw a total of 120 pitches through 8 1/3 innings before giving way to Maffett. He gave up four hits and two earned runs, but still received his first loss of the season.
"[Williams was] fantastic," McQueen said. "He's been giving us quality starts every time out and the last couple times, we haven't gotten him many runs, but that's going to happen on Friday nights. You're probably going to face their best guy too and you just are going to have some 3-2 ballgames on Friday nights."
Richmond's lineup looked different to compensate for the loss of Small. Richmond centerfielder Matt Zink took over the leadoff spot, while former starting second baseman JB Gadd moved over to shortstop.
"It puts us in a tough situation," McQueen said. "Right now, we got two walk-ons playing up the middle at second [base] and shortstop and they're doing the best job they can."
One of those walk-ons is freshman Chris Bell who made his first collegiate start on Friday. Batting eighth, Bell went 1-3 with a walk and scoring one of Richmond's two runs.
Bell knows he's got large shoes to fill stepping into the void left by Small's injury.
"It's a big [task] replacing Mike," he said. "Basically, I just got to do what I can control, make sure to prepare as if I'm going to start every game and keep working hard in practice."
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The Spiders (19-17-2, 6-4) will continue their series with Rhode Island (22-15, 8-5) tomorrow with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.
Three Spiders had multiple hits Friday as third baseman Derek Bollek, rightfielder Mike Mergenthaler and first baseman Billy Barber had two each. ... Rams pitcher Dan Johnson (3-2) picked up the win for Rhode Island. ... Richmond had a game high 12 runners LOB.
Contact staff writer David Weissman at email@example.com
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