No one knew how freshman centerfielder Ryan Brown would react after the ball hit off the top of his glove in the seventh inning, allowing Rhode Island to score the tying run.
Brown soon responded quickly, lifting a sacrifice fly to centerfield in the bottom of the seventh to put William and Mary (14-6) ahead for good en route to a 5-2 victory over the Rams at Plumeri Park Tuesday night.
Brown, whose misplay in the seventh was his first error of the season, found himself behind in the count 1-2 after a botched suicide squeeze attempt. But the freshman fouled off consecutive pitches before lifting a fly ball to center to score junior second baseman Jonathan Slattery from third base.
“That’s what [Brown] is all about,” Head Coach Frank Leoni said. “He’s not the type of kid that gets caught up and weighs himself down. He stays with it, stays positive, stays in the moment and tries to do something positive to help.”
Junior shortstop Derrick Osteen followed Brown’s at-bat with a walk. Osteen wasn’t on first for long before sophomore first baseman Tadd Bower whacked a towering home run to right-center field on a 3-0 fastball.
“Tadd did exactly what he’s supposed to do when he gets that opportunity,” Leoni said. “He looks for one pitch in one spot and if he gets it he’s supposed to unload on it—and that’s exactly what he did.”
Up until the seventh inning, the game had been a pitcher’s duel. The Tribe received a stellar performance from sophomore starter Cole Shain, who went six strong innings while allowing only one run and striking out three.
“It was a good mix of pitches which kept [their hitters] off balance,” Shain said.
In the seventh, freshman reliever John Farrell replaced Shain. The Massachusetts native worked the final three innings, holding the Rams to one unearned run to earn his second victory of the season.
“There weren’t a lot of strikeouts tonight but they did enough to give our defense a chance,” Leoni said. “[Shain and Farrell] did a great job.”
The Tribe earned its season-high fifth consecutive win heading into Wednesday’s matchup against the Rams, a win made extra special for Leoni, who graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1990.
“I’m so proud of my alma mater and so proud of [Rhode Island] coach [Jim] Foster and everything they do there,” Leoni said. “They played well tonight.”