The University of Rhode Island baseball team (5-6) visited No. six nationally ranked North Carolina State University last Friday and for the second time in 11 games defeated a top 10 opponent 5-2, before going 1-2 in the USA Baseball-Irish Classic.
The Rams junior ace pitcher Tyler Wilson took the mound at Doak Field in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday afternoon where he earned the 5-2 win. The Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Week allowed only two runs on five hits in six full innings on the hill for his first win of the year, and a significant one at that. Wilson held the nationally-ranked Wolfpack to a season-low two runs, and recorded 1-2-3 innings in the second, fourth and fifth. Wilson also earned the last top 10 victory when the Rams took down No. 1 seeded University of South Carolina 5-4 in last year’s NCAA Regional.
Freshman Vitaly Jangols came in to relieve Wilson in the bottom of the seventh inning, and had a 1-2-3 inning himself striking out the last of the three batters he first faced. Jangols followed up his first inning with two consecutive scoreless innings, ensuring a major win for the Rams, for which he earned A-10 Rookie of the Week honors.
Rhode Island got on the board first in the top of the second inning during a two-out rally when redshirt senior Mike Corin brought home fellow redshirt senior Matt O’Neil home with a double. Junior Jordan Powell hit an RBI single to left field to bring in Corin for the early 2-0 lead. The Rams lead was cut in half in the bottom of the third inning when Wilson gave up a solo home run to NC State’s Josh McLain. In the top of the sixth inning, the Rams responded by way of a Corin three-run home run, his team-leading fourth of the year, to extend the lead to 5-1. Wilson gave up his second and final run of the game in the bottom of the sixth when NC State’s Joe Dunand hit an RBI triple. Head coach Raphael Cerrato was naturally ecstatic with his team’s performance.
“I thought we had good at bats and we played good defense between Tyler and our freshman Vitaly Jangols, they were outstanding,” Cerrato said. “Vitaly, I mean you’re talking about a freshman going in a situation with a three-run lead in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning against the No. 6 ranked team in the country, and he is not fazed by it.”
The Rams followed up their biggest win of the young season with a trip to Cary, N.C. to compete in the USA Baseball-Irish Classic. In the first of two games on Saturday afternoon, URI faced off against Monmouth University in an extra inning thriller where they came out on top with the 5-4 victory. Powell drove in O’Neil in the bottom of the thirteenth inning to help give his team the walk-off win against the Hawks. Powell went 4-for-6 at the plate with his one RBI arriving at the perfect time. Coach Cerrato had high praise for his junior center fielder who has been pushing through injury.
“He has been dealing with an issue with his wrist,” Cerrato said. “He is still not at 100 percent but he is better. Jordan does so many things for us he leads by example, he is a tough kid, he is a tremendous center fielder, he is a great base runner and he can hit. He can pretty much do anything.”
In the second of their back-to-back games, the Rams failed to keep pace with the robust offense of the University of Notre Dame, losing 8-4. Rhode Island trailed 6-0 at the bottom of the fifth inning, but started to mount a comeback in the sixth when they responded with five straight hits and four runs to significantly cut the lead down to 6-4. The Fighting Irish grabbed insurance runs in both the sixth and eighth innings to bring the score to an eventual final of 8-4.
The Rams again fell short in the finale of the classic, losing 2-1 to the College of William and Mary. Rhode Island opened up scoring in the bottom of the sixth inning when O’Neil hit an RBI single scoring redshirt junior Chris Hess. William and Mary captured the lead for good in the top of the eighth inning, scoring twice on two hits and a walk. The Rams had a solid opportunity in the bottom half of the inning with the bases loaded, but were unable to take advantage. Freshman starting pitcher Jake Walker went just over six innings, striking out two and giving up no runs, while redshirt Sophomore Cam LaFleur (0-3) was handed the loss after allowing two runs in just 0.2 innings of work.
Cerrato was not pleased with the overall weekend results, especially considering how well the team played against a superior opponent prior to the USA-Irish Classic.
“Going into the weekend if you had said we were going to go 2-2 I’d say that is okay, but after you beat a team like NC State you would have liked to go 3-1 or 4-0, and we could have done it,” Cerrato said.
Next for Rhode Island will be another high level-test when they visit the SEC power University of Arkansas for a three-game set this upcoming weekend. Coach Cerrato knows this will be a tough, but beneficial experience for his team.
“We are facing one of the best programs in the country and it is going to be a tremendous atmosphere,” Cerrato said. “Kids come to URI because we are going to play the kind of schedule that we play, and we are going to challenge ourselves against the best teams in the country. Wins and losses I am not really concerned about that, I just want us to play good baseball.”