The University of Richmond baseball team has reigned atop the Atlantic 10 standings for the entirety of its 2015 campaign, but it was nearly dethroned this past weekend in its first conference series loss to Rhode Island.
The series was composed of an ugly loss Friday, a bona fide pitcher’s duel Saturday, and a slugfest Sunday.
Costly errors and well-timed Rhode Island hits led to Richmond’s demise on Friday. Starting pitcher Ryan Cook was charged with only one earned run, but two errors behind him allowed a total of five runs to cross home.
Danny Martinson allowed two more runs and the defense committed one more error for a total of three errors in the 2-7 loss.
As Major League Baseball seeks methods to speed up the pace of play, it could have used Saturday’s game as a model. The starting pitchers for both teams were stunningly efficient, and the game lasted exactly two hours (the average MLB game in 2014 lasted three hours and eight minutes).
The two freshman pitchers – Brendan McGuigan for Richmond and Tyler Wilson for Rhode Island – shut down the opposing offense for almost the entire game. Wilson pitched all nine innings, and McGuigan came just one out short of a complete game.
Neither pitcher ever faced more than one over the minimum three batters in an inning until the ninth, when Rhode Island scored its three runs. McGuigan limited Rhode Island to seven hits with seven strikeouts and no runs until two doubles, a wild pitch and an error broke up the scoreless tie, and gave Rhode Island the 3-0 win.
“I was really confident coming in,” McGuigan said. “Those are the games that are really tough. We fought hard, they fought hard. They threw a dominant pitcher against us and we just couldn’t get it going. It’s a tough loss."
Wilson completely stifled Richmond’s offense, giving up only one hit – a single to Tanner Stanley.
“Its frustrating, but hats off to that pitcher, and McGuigan as well,” Stanley said.
On Saturday, Stanley predicted an offensive explosion in the series finale after the hitters had been restrained for two games in a row.
“I think we’re going to come out firing [on Sunday],” Stanley said. “That’s two frustrating losses, and we’re not going to let them sweep us on our home field.”
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He wasn’t wrong.
To start Sunday off with a bang, shortstop Tyler Beckwith hit a first-pitch home run to lead off the game for the Spiders. First baseman Doug Kraeger followed two batters later with a no-doubt home run of his own.
In the first two games of the series, the Spiders totaled six hits. In the final game, they doubled that, getting 13 hits en route to a 6-1 win.
Richmond couldn't afford to get swept, and starting pitcher Dylan Stoops wasn’t about to let that happen.
“You never want to lose the first two at home, so Sunday is just a must win,” Stoops said. “Coming into the game I knew I had to be prepared.”
Stoops pitched eight complete innings, and allowed just one run on five hits with nine strikeouts. Ray Harron relieved Stoops in the ninth. After surrendering a leadoff single, he struck out the next three consecutive batters to lock down the win.
Richmond had held a singular lead of the Atlantic 10 conference before playing Rhode Island (8-4), but was able to finish the weekend tied for first (9-3) with St. Louis after Sunday’s win.
After playing Norfolk State at Pitt Field on Tuesday, the Spiders will go on the road for seven straight games, including two conference series against La Salle (17-19-1) and Massachusetts (11-14). With four A-10 series remaining in the season, the importance of winning at least two out of three games will grow with each one.
“We were sitting pretty before this series but now we’re head to head with St. Louis, so we have a few ‘must wins’ over the next few weekends for sure,” Beckwith said.
Contact reporter Erin Flynn at email@example.com
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