With a month left in the regular season, the University of Richmond's baseball team has the chance to make it to the Atlantic 10 conference tournament for the first time in three years.
The team holds a 19-17 overall record and a 5-5 conference record. After an 8-8 start to the season, the Spiders went on to win seven of their next eight games.
That span included a 10-3 victory over a tough University of Maryland team on March 27. Head coach Tracy Woodson, in his fifth season with the team, said that game had been the team’s biggest win of the season thus far.
Woodson said he recognized that the team had struggled the past few seasons but that improved pitching and defense, particularly in the outfield, had contributed to its success this year.
When asked what the biggest strength of this year’s team was, he quickly responded: “Pitching. In the bullpen, Layne Looney has been lights out for us, averaging almost two strikeouts per inning. A lot of our contributions have come from freshmen and sophomores, which has been huge for us.”
Looney, a junior, has earned five saves for the team this season while accumulating an earned-run average of 1.04 in 17.1 innings of work.
Right-handed pitcher and first-year Jarrad DeLarso said he attributed the pitching improvements to coach R.J. Thomas.
“All of the success from the pitching staff is directly correlated to the work of coach Thomas," DeLarso said. "He is always honest in evaluating our performance and does a great job at making sure everyone has a plan for improvement.”
Offensively, senior shortstop and team captain Vinny Capra has batted .346 with a team-leading 28 RBI. Woodson acknowledged that Capra's upcoming graduation would leave a vacancy in the offense’s production. One of Capra’s co-captains, redshirt junior outfielder D.J. Lee, has also been a major contributor, providing 23 RBI and ranking ninth in the A-10 with 14 stolen bases.
The team’s third captain, outfielder and pitcher Tim Miller, received glowing praise from Woodson for his crucial contributions to the team.
“Tim Miller is the leader of this team," Woodson said. "If I don’t have something to say, he will.”
DeLarso echoed his coach’s statements.
“Tim leads by example on and off the field," DeLarso said. "No matter how well he is performing, he is always picking up everyone and making sure we have energy in the dugout."
Miller is still only a redshirt freshman, and he attributed much of his strength to attitude.
“I try to control what I can on the field, so even if I’m not playing well, I try to bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm because that requires zero talent," Miller said.
Beyond being a vocal team leader, Miller has succeeded in all facets of the game this season. He has the second most innings pitched for the team and also has 16 RBI while committing zero errors on the field.
Looking ahead, Woodson said he hoped the team could continue to perform at the same level in order to compete in the A-10 tournament. The winner of the conference tournament receives an automatic invitation to compete in the regional round of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship for a chance to advance to the College World Series.
The seven teams with the best conference records participate in the annual A-10 tournament. The Spiders are currently in seventh place.
“If we can win the A-10 and get into a regional, it becomes anyone’s game," Miller said. "We’ve just got to get there.”
Richmond’s next game is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, the second of a three-game series at home against Davidson College. The Spiders lost the first game in the series on Friday. Davidson is currently second in the A-10 standings, making it a key opponent for the Spiders.
Contact sports writer C.J. Slavin at email@example.com.