University of Richmond freshman pitcher Andrew Brockett had plenty of time but he threw it all away -- literally -- as his sixth-inning error led to a three-run inning for La Salle University in its 7-5 win Sunday at Pitt Field.
Brackett, who came on in the sixth following a lead-off single by Brendan Norton off of Richmond starter Matt Trent, to face Dan Klem, who laid down a sacrifice bunt that was hit directly to Brackett. Brackett had time to set himself before making a throw to second to force out Norton but instead threw as he was whirling towards second and the ball flew into centerfield. Instead of at worst having a runner on first and one out, there were runners on second and third and no outs.
"That was a tough series of events for us," catcher Chris Cowell said. "I think that would have been a double play had we come up with it. They got momentum off that and scored three runs; pretty much the difference in the game right there."
Things continued to go the Explorers' way that inning as they had runners on second and third with one out and Billy Barber on to pitch for the Spiders, Jon Gyles hit a slow chopper up the middle that was fielded by second baseman Chris Bell. But it was hit too slow for Bell to make a throw to first and Gyles was safe on an infield hit which drove in a run. It was the second infield hit that drove in a run for the Explorers.
Right before those three runs scored, Richmond was making a comeback as it looked for its second conference home sweep of the season. With Richmond trailing 4-1 headed into the fifth, Cowell got ahead in the count 3-1 and drove a low and away fastball well over the right-centerfield wall to bring Richmond within one.
It was the second home run of the weekend for Cowell, who now has three on the year and is hitting .282 after a slow start to the year. Cowell said that he has been trying to simplify things to get his swing back.
"I just put in more work, that's the simple answer," Cowell said when asked what changed from the beginning of the year. "I just got back in the cage and tried to stay short and obviously it's paid some dividends this weekend. I finally feel good after that slow start."
Barber followed Cowell's home run with a deep fly ball of his own, but it carried only to the warning track in front of the 390-foot mark in straight center field. Cowell said that he initially thought that Barber's hit had a chance to go out.
"I thought he caught it pretty good but with the new bats, some of the balls that went out last year go to the track and the wall," Cowell said. "That's obviously what happened."
After Trent's first two innings, it appeared that Richmond would need quite a few home runs to keep up with La Salle. The Explorers had the bases loaded with one out in each of the innings. But the Explorers were limited to two runs in the first and one in the second but the damage could have been much worse in the second. Norton was thrown out at the plate by Ryan Mallory as he tried to score from second on a ground out to second base.
Trent settled down the next three innings, but allowed an unearned run as third baseman Derek Boliek made a throwing error on Joe Bennie's infield single that put Eric Kammler on third. The Explorers then got the first of their two RBIs on infield hits when Zack Feierstein hit a slow roller two-thirds of the way up the third baseline that prevented Trent from throwing anybody out.
Trent -- now 1-2 on the year -- gave up nine hits in his five innings of work but only three of his five runs were earned in his second outing since missing most of the season with an injury.
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"We're still working out some things and trying to get him in a rhythm," Richmond manager Mark McQueen said. "I think the more we get him out there the better he'll do. He showed some signs of getting it together after the first couple of innings."
Mike Mergenthaler hit his sixth home run of the year with a two-run shot in the seventh but Richmond was unable to do much else against La Salle's bullpen the next two innings. Although the Spiders were unable to complete the comeback and tie the Explorers for second in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings, McQueen was pleased with his team's performance this weekend.
"Any time you can get two out of three in this league, that's a plus," he said. "That's what our goal is each weekend. It would have been nice to get a sweep today if we could have but we just didn't get the job done."
Richmond gets another chance to make up more ground in the A-10 standings as it travels next weekend to face the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The 49ers lead the conference and are one of the best teams in the nation.
Cowell said that he is looking forward to the challenge of going up against probably the best team in the conference.
"If you can't get up to play Charlotte, you shouldn't be out here," Cowell said. "They are top-25 now so we are going to go down there with a full head of steam and try to take at least two of three."
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org
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