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Thursday, May 19, 2022

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Transfer student powers baseball to GMU series win

<p>The Richmond baseball team celebrated Michael Morman's walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday. </p>

The Richmond baseball team celebrated Michael Morman's walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday. 

In booming fashion, the Richmond baseball team swept the through the first two games of conference play to earn a series win over George Mason.

Richmond celebrated victories in both games of Saturday’s doubleheader. Centerfielder Michael Morman smacked a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift the Spiders to a 10-6 win in the first game. In game two, pitchers Zak Sterling and James Lively shut down the George Mason hitters to protect an 8-1 win. They lost the third game, 5-1, but not before securing the series win and elevating their season record to 9-8.

Morman and shortstop Tyler Beckwith were unstoppable offensive forces. Beckwith went 5-for-12 (a .417 batting average) over all three games with four RBIs, three doubles and one home run. Morman hit for an even more outrageous weekend batting average, going 7-for-11 (.636) with seven RBIs, two doubles and a game-winning home run.

A transfer student who graduated from Valparaiso, Morman hit just .245 over his injury-abbreviated career there. The offensive impact he has had on the Richmond team came as a surprise to everyone but head coach Tracy Woodson, who spent seven years as the head coach at Valparaiso.

“We always thought we were going to have a really good lineup,” Woodson said. “We’ve had a couple surprises, but I knew Michael Morman was going to do well. People around here just didn’t know it. I knew what he was going to add to this team, and it’s been huge for us.”

Morman’s performance earned him the distinction of A-10 Player of the Week. He leads the A-10 with 22 runs batted in, and is tied for third for home runs (4) and runs scored (19).

With Morman’s contribution, the Spiders garnered 27 hits on the weekend in a continuation of the offensive performance Woodson has been pleased with to this point in the season. Though the offense couldn’t overcome the four runs allowed by Sunday’s starting pitcher Peter Bayer, the performances by pitchers Sterling and Ryan Cook in Saturday’s starts were solid enough to bring Richmond to victory.

Cook pitched six innings and gave up seven hits, but allowed no walks and just three runs. Sterling threw 6 2/3 innings, and gave up one run on eight hits with eight strikeouts. He was redeemed from a potentially game-tying jam by a killer throw from freshman catcher Brandon Johnson to catch a runner stealing and end the inning.

Neither pitcher thought he performed at his peak ability, but Cook felt that the results of their efforts set a positive tone for the day.

“If you can come out there the first day and throw well, battle, compete, and show the other team that you’re here to play, it does a lot as morale for the team,” Cook said. “Conference play is a different animal. It’s a lot more fun, a lot more intense. I like being that guy to set the tone for the entire weekend.”

The tone of the series was helped by its location. Held at The Diamond, approximately 20 minutes from Richmond’s campus, the games attracted a larger turnout than previous games held at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights. Almost 600 people attended the two-game series at The Diamond, in comparison to the 388 that attended the two games against Minnesota hosted at Shepherd Stadium.

Woodson said the increase in attendance made it feel more like a home game.

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“I thought we had a nice crowd, which is good to have,” Woodson said. “It’s just closer than Colonial Heights. It’s nice to have people cheering for us, but it’s up to us to get them here by scoring runs and winning games.”

The Spiders play their next game against William and Mary on Tuesday at Shepherd Stadium. The next A-10 series will be against Fordham and is scheduled to be held at Pitt Field if the ongoing renovations have been completed before Friday, March 27.

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