The Collegian
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Comeback falls short in baseball’s loss to Minnesota

<p>Senior Zach Grossfeld pitched two shut-out innings and struck out two batters in Richmond's loss to Minnesota. </p>

Senior Zach Grossfeld pitched two shut-out innings and struck out two batters in Richmond's loss to Minnesota. 

It could have been a fantastic celebration.

After recovering from a nine-run deficit on Tuesday afternoon, the Richmond baseball team put the winning run on base in the bottom of the ninth inning. But the excitement of a once-unlikely comeback evaporated quickly as University of Minnesota turned a double play to end the game and secure their 13-12 win.

The game began in Richmond’s favor as senior Zak Sterling pitched beautifully across three shutout innings, and the offense supported him with three runs in that span.

Sterling threw just 34 pitches and allowed only one base runner – on a walk. Perhaps the game would have ended with the Spiders as the victors if Sterling had continued his bid for a no-hitter, but because he is slated to start on Saturday against A-10 rival George Mason, head coach Tracy Woodson was forced to pull him from the game.

“We joked about if Sterling had a perfect game or no hitter we’d keep him going,” Woodson said. “But he’s pitching Saturday and he needs the three day’s rest.”

The game turned messy in the fourth inning, when junior Peter Bayer relieved Sterling and ultimately earned himself the loss. He exited the game after facing eight batters but inducing only one out. He allowed seven runs on five hits, one of which was a two-run home run.

Redshirt senior Dylan Stoops relieved Bayer, but the Gophers just kept scoring. Stoops seemed to slow Minnesota’s momentum in a quick fifth inning when he faced the minimum three batters, but in the sixth he couldn’t keep the ball in the park.

The Gophers hit three more home runs and raised their run total to 13 before freshman Keenan Bartlett and senior Zach Grossfeld held them scoreless over the final three and two-thirds innings.

The momentum shifted in the bottom of the sixth, when Richmond scored the first of eight unanswered runs across three innings. Freshman Kyle Adams was the offensive star of the day, going 4-for-5 and hitting his first two collegiate home runs.

“[Adams has] been swinging the bat,” Woodson said. “He knows what he’s doing up there. It’s been a big surprise and a very nice surprise to have.”

Juniors Jansen Fraser and Kurtis Brown were the other big contributors on offense. Fraser hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning, and Brown was responsible for bringing home four of Richmond’s 12 runs.

Wednesday’s game was Richmond baseball’s first home game in Virginia. Their first “home” series was played in South Carolina at USC-Salkehatchie because of delays to the renovation of their home field. Because Pitt Field is still not game-ready, the two-game series against Minnesota is being held at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights, approximately 35 minutes away from the University of Richmond campus.

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The recorded attendance for the game was 211 spectators, many of which were sporting maroon and gold Minnesota gear rather than the blue and red of Richmond. Woodson said the game did not feel like a home game.

“When you have to drive 35 minutes it’s not really a home game, but there’s nothing we can do,” Woodson said. “I think our guys have handled it well, but it’s bothersome at times because we don’t know where we’re practicing a lot of the time. We’ve not had a full practice on an outdoor baseball field yet. That’s a disappointment.”

Richmond will play the second game of the Minnesota series on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

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