The University of Richmond baseball team broke out of a seven-game slump over the weekend with a 2-1 series win over Fairfield University, thanks to the awakening of a stagnant offense.
After starting the season 0-7, the Spiders stopped their skid with a lopsided 13-2 triumph over the Stags in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday. They fell to Fairfield, 6-2, in the second game, but captured the series win with an 8-0 victory on Sunday.
Before facing Fairfield, Richmond's offense had averaged 5.7 hits and 2.7 runs per game. During the two wins, Richmond hitters averaged 12 hits and 10.5 runs.
Matt Dacey, sophomore and third baseman, Kurtis Brown, freshman and designated hitter and Ryan Cook, junior and right fielder, were the offensive stars of the weekend. Dacey went 6-for-11, Brown went 5-for-11 and Cook went 4-for-12. All three hit for extra bases. Dacey and Tanner Stanley, sophomore and centerfielder, both hit home runs.
Aaron Newman, sophomore and catcher who went 3-for-3 in the first game of the series, said it had been great to see his teammates break out of a team-wide slump, and credited the uptick in offense to the baseball adage "hitting is contagious."
"Once you get a hit and string a few together, your guys start getting really confident, and you go up there relaxed," Newman said. "There's no pressure, especially with a big lead early. I think that's what really got us going."
Head coach Tracy Woodson also attributed the higher offensive productivity to establishing an early advantage, he said. The Spiders scored in either the first or second inning in their two victories, but did not score until the sixth inning during their one loss of the weekend.
"This was only the second game we've led all year," Woodson said after Sunday's win. "We've won both, so I think we need to lead more."
Jonathan de Marte, Zach Grossfeld and Zak Sterling, juniors and the three starting pitchers for Richmond, helped protect those leads. In the 15 total innings they pitched, they allowed only three runs.
Woodson was pleased with the weekend's pitching, especially on Sunday, when he described Sterling and Cook's shutout performance as outstanding, he said.
Sterling also emphasized the importance of scoring at the beginning of the game, saying that falling behind quickly has been a sticking point for the team. As a pitcher, Sterling said when the offense scored it helped him do his job better by taking pressure off.
"It's pretty delicious when they go out and put up some runs in the first inning," Sterling said. "It really sets the tone, and it makes my job a lot easier because I just have to throw strikes."
The series win brought Richmond's record to 2-8, and the two-game taste of victory helped boost the team's confidence, Sterling said.
"We're going to take these two wins, and we're going to go forward with a lot of confidence," Sterling said. "We think we can go on a streak."
The Spiders will be charged with taking that confidence into their coming weekend series against the Quinnipiac University Bobcats at 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 7 at Pitt Field.
Contact staff writer Erin Flynn at email@example.com