Baseball takes two at Richmond, edges Hartford

The University of Rhode Island baseball team (18-15 (8-3, A-10)) won their road series against the University of Richmond, taking the first game 5-1, and the finale 16-5, while losing the second 7-6.

In the first game of the series last Friday, Rhode Island took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Senior Martin Figueroa hit an RBI single, driving in redshirt junior Chris Hess for the early lead. Richmond would tie the score at 1-1 in the bottom half of the second inning when the Rams starting pitcher, redshirt junior Taso Stathopoulos, threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded. Stathopoulos would recover from the early error, and pitch four full innings while only allowing one earned run on four hits.

Figueroa earned his second RBI in the game in the fifth inning, popping up a sacrifice fly that scored junior Jordan Powell, and gave URI back the lead. The Rams added three insurance runs to their slim lead in the next inning. Hess helped lead the way with his second double of the game, which drove in two of the three runs. Junior Nick Johnson earned the 5-1 win for the Rams. In five innings of relief, Johnson struck out seven, walked one, allowed four hits and no runs. Naturally, head coach Raphael Cerrato was impressed by the performance of his pitchers on Friday afternoon.

“Nick Johnson and Taso Stathopoulos were excellent on Friday,” Cerrato said. “We decided to change it up a little bit, so Taso threw for only his third start since Tommy John surgery. Nick Johnson has been starting, but has been a reliever in the past so he is good at that.”

The Spiders fought hard in the second game to ensure the Rams would not sweep them on their home turf, Pitt Field. URI started the game scoring three runs on a home run from redshirt senior Matt O’Neil, his seventh on the season. Richmond responded in the next half inning, scoring three runs of their own to tie the score at 3-3. In the top of the third inning, Hess hit a two-run home run, his second of the season, to give his team back the lead at 5-3.

Richmond clawed its way back again, and took their first lead of the afternoon in the sixth. Back-to-back RBI singles from R.J. Waters and D.J. Lee put the Spiders on top, 6-5. The pendulum swung back once more for URI, when Figueroa tied the game for the Rams in the seventh inning on an RBI sacrifice fly. The Rams would not cross the plate again, as the Spiders’ Justin Cook hit a walk off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to end the game in dramatic fashion at 7-6. Redshirt junior Tyler Barss (0-2) was handed the loss for the Rams allowing one hit and one earned run in 0.2 innings pitched.

Cerrato believed his team’s play was better than what the scoreboard showed.”Saturday I thought we just made a couple mistakes, but I still think we outplayed them,” Cerrato said. “Just a frustrating loss. That is how baseball is, it’s not always the best team that wins, but the team that touches the most plates.”

Rhode Island was able to shrug off Saturday’s heartbreaking mid-series loss on Sunday, opening the game with a four-run first inning. Redshirt senior Mike Corin started things off with a three-run home run, his ninth of the season, and Sophomore Brett McManus made it 4-0 when he hit an RBI double. The Spiders would get on the board in the bottom of the second inning to cut URI’s lead to 4-1.

The Rams grew their lead, scoring a massive eight runs combined in the fourth and fifth innings. O’Neil led the way in both innings, hitting two home runs, a three run shot and a solo home run for his eighth and ninth of the season. With a 12-1 lead entering the top of the sixth inning, the Rams tacked on four more runs over the game’s final stretch to safely secure themselves the runaway victory. The Spiders mounted some offense, but the damage had already been done, as URI clinched the series with the dominant 16-5 victory. Freshman Vitaly Jangols (5-1) pitched a gem, allowing just one earned run on five hits in his six innings of work.

Cerrato was ecstatic with the pitching of his mature freshman and URI’s best offensive performance of the year, even with the loss of senior leader Figueroa, who suffered an injury in the win.

“Sunday, we suffered an injury to Figueroa, and we could have easily let him being hurt and not playing affect us,” Cerrato said. “I was really proud of us, how we came out, how we played. I thought we swung the bat very well the whole weekend. Vitaly just being a weekend starter he is very important, and has been one of our most consistent pitchers. Although he is a freshman he definitely does not pitch like a freshman, and is very poised.”

On Wednesday, the baseball team visited the University of Hartford (11-19), and pulled out a thrilling 14-13 victory that became a lot closer than fans watching the first couple of hours expected. The Rams. Junior outfielder Mike Foley hit a three-run blast and had five RBIs, while teammate O’Neil had a big afternoon of his own, driving three more in to pad the lead. URI scored four runs in the first and fourth innings and three more in the sixth. They held an almost insurmountable 13-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth.

Hartford, however, attempted to flip the script and give the home crowd some unexpected late-game heroics. URI’s bullpen unraveled, allowing the Hawks to enjoy a big inning that included nine runs, and put them within one run. URI remained their composure and tacked on another insurance run that proved crucial when Hartford answered with another run in the final frame. The Rams used nine pitchers, with no one exceeding two innings of work. Junior southpaw Dom Grillo earned his first win of the year, throwing 1.2 innings of scoreless, no-hit ball. Barss picked up his seventh save.

URI visit another Atlantic 10 opponent in George Washington University this weekend, where they hope to build on their 8-3 conference record beginning on Friday.