RAMS HEAD NORTH TO TAKE ON NORTHEASTERN IN THREE-GAME SET

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Rams, Huskies face off in crucial CAA series

BROOKLINE, Mass. – One of the most heated rivalries in all of sports will take place in Boston, Mass. this weekend when the New York Yankees head to Fenway Park to take on the Boston Red Sox on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Just a few miles up the road, another crucial three-game series, this time on the Colonial Athletic Association level, will be taking place when the Virginia Commonwealth University baseball team takes on the Huskies of Northeastern University at Friedman Diamond.

“Right now, it’s really a wide open race for the final two or three spots in the [CAA] tournament,” Head Coach Paul Keyes said. “This weekend is going to be a big step for us. We need to play well in all facets of the game to beat these guys and if we do that we put ourselves in better position to make a run at one of those top six spots.”

VCU (18-15, 6-6 CAA) will be looking to snap a three-game losing skid when it takes on the Huskies (20-14, 6-6 CAA).

While the back end of the Rams’ weekend rotation has changed several times throughout the year, senior southpaw Ian Thomas (Virginia Beach, Va.) has been the one constant as the ace of the staff.

The veteran has been outstanding in his past two outings, giving up just three earned runs, striking out 11 and walking just three in 16.1 innings of work. VCU has picked up wins over James Madison and George Mason in that span.

A big part of the Black & Gold’s recent success has been the outstanding output of the junior outfield trio of Matt Leskiw (Plains, Pa.), Andrew Dimino (Greenwood, Ind.) and M.L. Morgan (Petersburg, Va.). The trio has combined to hit .384 (38-of-99), scored 17 runs and swiped 14 bases in conference games this year.

Northeastern has relied on a very deep pitching staff that is led by the starting rotation of Ryan Quigley, Jeff Thomson and Les Williams, which has combined for eight wins and no ERA higher than 4.99.

Offensively, veteran Mike Tamsin continues to pound opposing pitching to a tune of .388 with eight doubles and four home runs in 34 games.

Game times at Friedman Diamond are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and a 1 p.m. series finale on Sunday afternoon.
 
Gonna be tough to have this road trip then follow it up with a trip to Atlanta
 
THOMAS SHARP ONCE AGAIN AS RAMS TOP NORTHEASTERN, 7-2

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Southpaw tosses second career complete game

BROOKLINE, Mass. – It was an epic display of vintage Virginia Commonwealth University baseball with a shutdown performance on the mound, timely hitting and solid defense in the Rams’ 7-2 road win over Northeastern on Friday afternoon.

Senior southpaw Ian Thomas (Virginia Beach, Va.) tossed the first complete game of the season for the Black & Gold the crucial victory in Colonial Athletic Association action.

“It was really exactly what we’ve been trying to do all year,” Head Coach Paul Keyes said. “Solid pitching, solid hitting and solid defense. That’s going to win you a lot of games.”

The win improves VCU’s record to 19-15 overall and 7-6 in the conference, while the Huskies drop to 20-15 on the year and 6-7 in the CAA.

Northeastern would get on the board first when Frank Pesanello laced the first pitch he saw over the left field wall to grab a 1-0 lead.

Clutch hitting by junior Andrew Dimino (Greenwood, Ind.) tied the score a half inning later when he roped an RBI single through the left side of the infield to plate classmate Matt Leskiw (Plains, Pa.).

Thomas and Northeastern lefty Ryan Quigley locked into a pitcher’s duel, allowing just five hits combined over the first five frames as the score remained 1-1.

Freshman Josh Alford (Midlothian, Va.) got the Rams going in the sixth with a leadoff single up the middle and moved to second on an errant pickoff attempt by Quigley. After a groundout moved him to third, redshirt sophomore Joe Van Meter (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) smoked a single into right field to plate Alford and claim a 2-1 advantage for the Black & Gold.

VCU would string together a two-out rally in the seventh when Leskiw was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a single by classmate Richard Gonzalez (Caguas, Puerto Rico). Dimino sent a groundball to second that was mishandled, allowing Leskiw to score and Gonzalez to reach third, while the Rams’ lead was extended to 3-1.

A walk to Alford loaded the bases and junior Doug Otto (Jefferson City, Mo.) followed with a pivotal two-RBI single through the left side of the infield to push VCU’s lead to 5-1.

“That was a huge at-bat by Doug,” Keyes commented. “He’s one of the only two guys on the team to start every game and I thought he’s showed his toughness by battling through some nagging injuries and it showed once again in that at-bat.”

Another Northeastern fielding miscue led to two more Rams runs, plating Leskiw and pinch runner Ryan Caldwell (Charlottesville, Va.), and giving Thomas plenty of cushion at 7-1.

The Huskies would scratch out an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth, but that would be it as Thomas scattered eight hits and used three crucial double plays to end Northeastern scoring threats.

On the day, Thomas allowed just one earned run, while striking out five to improve to 4-2 on the year. Quigley took the loss after giving up three runs in 6.2 innings of work.

Eight different Rams recorded hits on the afternoon with Leskiw plating three runs and Otto pick up two RBIs.

“It wasn’t our biggest offensive output, but I thought nearly every hit we had was timely,” Keyes said. “We had a couple big leadoff hits after innings where they threatened and we had clutch RBIs from Dimino and Doug.”

The two teams will square off in game two of the series on Saturday afternoon at Friedman Diamond. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m.
 
FOUR-RUN SEVENTH DOOMS RAMS IN 8-6 LOSS AT NORTHEASTERN

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Morgan goes 3-for-5 on the afternoon

BROOKLINE, Mass. – It was the tale of two games on Saturday afternoon at Friedman Diamond.

The Virginia Commonwealth University baseball team jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but six unanswered runs by the Huskies of Northeastern University saddled the Rams with an 8-6 loss in the second game of the Colonial Athletic Association three-game set.

“The key in a game like that is to be able to keep scoring and we weren’t able to do that,” Head Coach Paul Keyes said. “When you have a team like Northeastern that can drive the ball out of the park at times, you have to be able to score in more than just three innings and put more pressure on them.”

With the loss, the Black & Gold fall to 19-16 on the year and 7-7 in conference action, while Northeastern improves to 21-15 and 7-7 in CAA play.

“We knew going into the year it was going to be a dog fight for the final three of four spots in the CAA Tournament,” Keyes stated.

For the second day in a row, the Huskies struck first with an RBI single from Mike Tamsin that scored Frank Compagnone and gave Northeastern a 1-0 lead.

Redshirt sophomore Joe Van Meter (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) did not allow NU to get comfortable with the lead as he launched his second home run of the season into the right field bleachers to even the game at 1-1.

A two-out RBI bunt single from Ryan Maguire plated another Husky run in the bottom of the second and reclaimed the lead, 2-1, in Northeastern’s favor.

VCU’s offense came alive in the third when Richard Gonzalez (Caguas, Puerto Rico) drew a leadoff walk and moved to third when classmate Andrew Dimino (Greenwood, Ind.) singled into centerfield. Junior M.L. Morgan (Petersburg, Va.) collected an RBI single into right field to plate Gonzalez and move Dimino to second.

Junior Doug Otto (Jefferson City, Mo.) delivered the third straight single to load the bases before senior R.J. Schenk (Yorktown, Va.) smashed a two-RBI single into right field to give the Rams their first lead of the day at 4-2. Van Meter followed by crushing a double into right-centerfield to plate Otto and extend VCU’s lead to 5-2.

Morgan would get things going again in the top of the fourth as he laced a triple down the right field line and scored one batter later on a Northeastern error to push the Black & Gold’s advantage to 6-2.

Two-out RBI singles by Jeff Dunlap and James Donaldson in the fourth and fifth innings got the Huskies within striking distance at 6-4.

Meanwhile, Northeastern reliever Trevor Smith continued to stifle the Rams hitters, allowing just five hits and one run over the final seven innings of play.

Smith’s efforts on the mound set the stage for a seventh-inning rally for the Huskies.

Tamsin got things started with a triple to centerfield and Donaldson evened the score one batter later when he sent a two-run home run into the right field bleachers. Frank Pesanello followed with a solo long ball into nearly the exact same spot and back-to-back doubles plated two more runs to claim an 8-6 advantage in NU’s favor.

“We got a couple pitches up and they were able to come through with balls that got up in the wind to right field and that made the difference,” Keyes commented. “They really only had that one good offensive inning today, it just happened to come at the right time.”

Smith was able to hold on to the lead over the final two innings to preserve the critical CAA win for the Huskies.

Freshman Kyle Pelchy (Yorktown, Va.) (3-2) was saddled with the loss after giving up six hits and four earned runs in 1.1 innings of work. Smith picked up the win to improve to 3-2.

Offensively, Morgan led the 12-hit Ram attack, going 3-for-5 on the day with two runs scored and one RBI. Schenk, Van Meter and junior Nate Furry (Salem, Va.) all had two hits on the afternoon, with Van Meter and Schenk each tallying two RBIs in the contest.

The two teams will face off in a pivotal rubber game in Sunday’s finale. Game time at Friedman Diamond is set for 1 p.m.
 
RAMS DROP 6-5 HEARTBREAKER TO NORTHEASTERN IN SERIES FINALE

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Rams threaten in ninth, but Zehr closes the door

BROOKLINE, Mass. – If there was any question of how intense the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament is going to be, the answer was on display at Friedman Diamond on Sunday afternoon.

The Virginia Commonwealth University baseball team dropped a 6-5 heartbreaker to the Huskies of Northeastern in the finale of a three-game CAA set, leaving the bases loaded in the top of the ninth.

“That was exactly how the tournament games are going to be and exactly what the rest of the season is going to be,” Head Coach Paul Keyes said. “They were able to come up with a few more clutch hits and clutch plays than us today, that’s the bottom line.”

With the loss, VCU falls to 19-17 overall and 7-8 in conference action, while Northeastern moves to 22-15 on the year and 8-7 in CAA play.

Junior M.L. Morgan (Petersburg, Va.) got the Rams rolling right out of the gates with a one-out single and moved to second on a stolen base. Two batters later, senior R.J. Schenk (Yorktown, Va.) smoked a RBI single into left field to plate Morgan and give VCU an early 1-0 lead.

Back-to-back two-out singles from juniors Matt Leskiw (Plains, Pa.) and Richard Gonzalez (Caguas, Puerto Rico) plated another run in the top of the second to push the lead to 2-0.

Junior Andrew Dimino (Greenwood, Ind.) smashed a leadoff double into the left-centerfield gap and Morgan drove him home with an RBI single one batter later to give the Black & Gold a 3-0 advantage.

After three perfect innings from Seth Cutler-Voltz (Richmond, Va.) to start the game, the Huskies came alive in the home half of the fourth. RBI singles from Mike Tamsin and Brendan Stokes cut into VCU’s lead at 3-2.

A one-out solo home run from Ryan Maguire in the top of the fifth tied the game at three, before an RBI groundout from Stokes in the sixth gave Northeastern its first lead of the day at 4-3.

Dimino and Morgan would try and get something going once again in the seventh with a leadoff walk and a bunt single that put runners on first and third with no outs. A sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Michael Cheatham (Chesterfield, Va.) plated Dimino and evened the game at 4-4.

The tie score would not last long as Frank Compagnone delivered a two-out RBI double down the right field line to plate Matt Miller and give Northeastern a 5-4 advantage.

David Gustafson connected on a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to score Frank Pesanello, a run that proved to be crucial later on.

With one out in the top of the ninth, junior Doug Otto (Jefferson City, Mo.) smashed a ground rule double over the left field fence and Cheatham followed with a single to put runners on first and third. Redshirt sophomore Joe Van Meter (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) laced a ball down the left field line, but a diving play by Compagnone turned it into a sacrifice fly that got the Rams within one at 6-5.

A single by pinch-hitter Nate Furry (Salem, Va.) put two runners on and a Northeastern miscue on a groundball from senior Carlos Rodriguez (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) loaded the bases with two outs. However, Husky closer Dan Zehr was able to settle in and get a strikeout to pick up a critical 6-5 win for Northeastern.

“It was a tough series for us,” Keyes said. “We just couldn’t seem to find the holes when we needed to, that’s how baseball is sometimes.”

Redshirt sophomore Aaron Morgan (Sutherland, Va.) (3-2) was saddled with the loss after giving up two earned runs in 2.2 innings of relief. Cutler-Voltz finished with 5.1 innings of work, five hits, two walks and three strikeouts.

Andrew Leenhouts (1-1) picked up the win in relief for Northeastern, while Zehr closed out the final 1.2 innings for his fifth save.

Offensively, Morgan was the story for the second straight day, going 4-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI. Gonzalez was the only other Ram with multi-hits, going 2-for-4 with an RBI on the day.

The Rams have the week off before heading back on the road for a pivotal three-game CAA series at Georgia State beginning with a 6 p.m. contest on Friday evening.
 
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