Redshirt Senior Tyler Wilson winds up for the pitch in a home game last season. Photo by Autumn Walter.
The University of Rhode Island baseball team traveled over 2,000 miles to face off against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).
In the opener of the four game series, the Rams struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Jackson Coutts singled up the middle to drive in Sam Ilario. Unfortunately, that was the only runner to cross the plate for URI.
In the top of the fourth, UTRGV used an unearned run to tie the score, and then tacked on four more in the sixth for the 5-1 advantage.
The Rams struggled to get more runs on the board as they stranded runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings. The Vaqueros sealed the game with an eighth-inning, three-run single by Anthony Gomez. Rhody committed two errors in the 8-1 loss while UTRGV played flawless defense.
Day two in Texas was a doubleheader for the Rams. In game two, Rhode Island again took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Coutts sent a one-out single to center and later scored on a base hit by Kevin Heiss. However, UTRGV answered right away in the bottom of the frame, getting a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Aaron Galvan.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the fourth, when UTRGV erupted for a nine-run fourth before tacking on four additional runs in the sixth.
The Varques pushed across one more run in the eighth to lock up the 15-3 victory.
“Every ball they hit just found a hole,” said Head Coach Raphael Cerrato. “It wasn’t like they were smashing the ball all over the field. It was just dropping where we weren’t.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, UTRGV scored in each of the first three innings to take an early 5-0 advantage. In the top of the fifth, Rhody trimmed the deficit to 5-2 when Mark Coley and Austin White led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Coutts followed with a base hit that pushed across Coley and White later scored on a sac-fly by John Cristino.
The Vaqueros pushed their lead to 9-2 in the home half of the inning, but Rhode Island kept battling. Sonny Ulliana and Max Mircovich opened the sixth inning with back-to-back doubles to make it 9-3. Coutts singled to left to drive in Mircovich and cut it to 9-4.
An eighth-inning double by White plated Brett McManus, but 9-5 was as close as Rhody could get. The Rams had the tying run on deck in the top of the ninth, but a game-ending double-play ended the late threat.
The fourth and final game of the series was a back and forth battle, but UTRGV (9-3) completed the series sweep over Rhode Island on Sunday afternoon. Rhody (2-8) had taken its first lead of the game in the top of the ninth but the Vaqueros used a three-run ninth inning to walk off with the 7-6 victory.
The Vaqueros answered with a run in the third and fourth, then scoring twice in the fifth for the 4-1 advantage.
But Rhody has been familiar with coming from behind so far this season. URI tied the score in the top of the seventh when Coutts and John Cristino drew back-to-back, bases-loaded walks to make it 4-3. White then scored the tying run on an RBI groundout by Xavier Vargas.
Cristino led off the top of the ninth by getting hit with a pitch. Vargas then singled and Ulliana was walked to load the bases. A sac-fly by Heiss then plated pinch runner Max Mircovich before Laurence Hill delivered an RBI single through the left side that put URI on top 6-4.
However, UTRGV spoiled the comeback. A two-run triple by Anthony Gomez tied the score and Jacob Hirsh singled to left center to drive in Gomez which gave the Vaqueros the walk-off victory.
Although it’s a tough way to finish a long weekend, the season is just beginning.
“Trusting each other and staying positive is most important for us,” Heiss said when preparing for Wichita State on March 15.
Coach Cerrato finished by saying, “Our offense has improved so that’s good. Pitching wise, guys are still struggling. They need to do better for us to have success. But I like what I’m seeing.”