The University of Rhode Island baseball team (21-16, 10-4 Atlantic 10) were beaten handily at George Washington University (20-19, 5-5 A-10) on Friday 15-5, but responded with back-to-back wins on Sunday 7-2, and 5-3 to clinch another A-10 series, which they followed up with a 7-2 win at the University of Connecticut on Wednesday.
Friday afternoon was not an ideal start for the Rams, as the Colonials got out to an 8-0 lead scoring four runs in the bottom of the third and fourth innings. They packed on the pressure, with URI’s deficit increasing to 10 after scoring two more runs in the fifth inning. The Rams would respond in the top of the sixth inning, cutting the lead in half with five runs, all scored during a two-out rally. Junior Jordan Powell hit a three-run home run over the left field wall to make the score 10-5.
The Colonials effectively put the game out of reach when they extended the lead to 10 after scoring one run in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings, and three runs in the bottom of the eighth. The Rams failed to score after their sixth-inning rally, making the final score a definitive 15-5. Redshirt junior Taso Stathopoulos (1-1) was handed the loss after allowing four earned runs in just over one inning pitched.
Head coach Raphael Cerrato was expectedly disappointed with his team’s opening loss, feeling that they struggled to find momentum in any aspect of the game.
“I think Friday was probably our worst game of the season,” Cerrato said. “It was disappointing. I don’t know if all of the travel and everything caught up with us. We didn’t really pitch well and really didn’t do anything well.”
Rhode Island answered the call of their coach and responded emphatically after the blowout loss. The Rams trailed 1-0 after the Colonials scored first in the fourth inning, but they tied it up in the next half inning following a sacrifice fly by redshirt junior Chris Hess. Hess then gave the Rams the lead when he drew a bases loaded walk that scored sophomore Kevin Heiss in the seventh. Redshirt senior Matt O’Neil then added to the lead with an RBI sac-fly that sent Powell home and gave the Rams a 3-1 advantage.
The Colonials would score once in the bottom of the seventh to pull within one run, but the Rams put the game away in the top of the ninth when Hess hit a two-run RBI double, and Corin followed up with a two-run blast. URI closed out GW in the final frame to clinch the 7-2 victory. Redshirt Matt Murphy allowed just one run in 5.1 innings but took the no decision.
In the final game of the series and the second of a double-header, the Rams again found themselves in an early 1-0 hole after the first three innings of play. The offense ignited, however, in the fourth, with three runs coming on the board courtesy of Corin’s second home run of the series. The Colonials made it into a one-run game in the bottom of the fifth following a pair of walks and sacrifice flies.
Two innings later GW tied up the score at 3-3, but Hess put an end to the Colonials comeback when he hit a two-run home run in the eighth. Hess earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Week recognition for his play this past weekend, which a home run and six RBIs considers Hess to be the MVP of the team so far this season with how consistent his work ethic and play have been.
“He’s one of the best leaders that we could have in the program,” Cerrato said. “He is not a vocal leader but his work ethic is second to none, attitude is outstanding he really cares about URI baseball. You add that all together and he’s probably the MVP of the team right now. He had a huge day on Sunday. We even had to ask him to play catcher for us since three of our catchers are injured, and he started game one for us on Sunday behind the plate. The kid does everything for us, and does whatever it takes for the team.”
Redshirt senior Blaise Whitman (3-1) earned wins in both of the two games on Sunday allowing only four hits and one unearned run in 3.2 innings out of the bullpen. Redshirt senior reliever Tyler Barss also had appearances in both games, earning the final three outs of game one and sitting down all of the four batters he faced in the finale. Cerrato was impressed by the pitching of Whitman and Barss out of the bullpen, as they played well in both games of the double-header.
“Blaise Whitman and Tyler Barss pitched both games in the double-header, and we asked a lot of them, especially of Blaise,” Cerrato said. “He has been outstanding this season coming out of the bullpen. Barss did a great job coming out of the bullpen for us too. Our starting pitching on Sunday was good from Murphy and [Vitaly] Jangols, but those guys deserve credit for pitching two games in one day.”
The Rams earned a much-needed victory at UConn yesterday afternoon. URI put up six unanswered runs through the first four innings and never looked back. Hess added to his prolific week with a perfect 4-for-4 day from the plate, which included three RBI. He had four extra base hits, three doubles and one triple, which put him into the top five on the program’s all-time list.
Junior Dom Grillo pitched 4.2 innings of shutout ball in his first career start and earned the win. He kept URI in control when he got out of a fifth-inning bases loaded jam.
“UConn is always a big regional rivalry for us,” Cerrato said. “We are currently in the low fifties for RPI which is good and if you can get into the low thirties we can possibly get an at large bid. We are close so this is an important game for us going against a team that is in the low forties for RPI. It is a really good test for us mid-week.”