Another weekend, another hard-fought, tooth and nail conference series for William and Mary. But Virginia Commonwealth had the edge as the College dropped two of three games to the Rams in Richmond.
After topping VCU (22-18, 9-12 CAA) in 11 innings Friday by a score of 4-3, the Tribe (25-18, 10-11 CAA) lost both parts of a Saturday doubleheader, 7-4 and 7-5.
The College looked as though it wouldn’t need any extra baseball to grab the victory Friday. Junior starting pitcher Brett Koehler turned in an impressive six-and-two-thirds innings, allowing just two runs on five hits and a walk, and the Tribe plated one in the seventh and two in the eighth to take a 3-2 lead. But the Rams extended the game in the bottom of the ninth, tying things up with an RBI single off the typically lights-out junior closer John Farrell.
That would be all they’d get from the righty, however, who took the victory after four-and-a-third innings, one run, four hits, one walk and three strikeouts. Senior designated hitter Sean Aiken reached first on a throwing error by the third baseman in the 11th before head coach Frank Leoni pinch ran for him with freshman pitcher J.T. Castner, who advanced to second on a bunt. Two batters later, junior center fielder Ryan Brown singled, scoring Castner and giving the College an advantage that Farrell would protect for the victory.
The Rams’ bats awoke Saturday, however. The Tribe struck first, scoring a run in the third when junior second baseman Kevin Nutter’s ground out drove in junior second baseman Ryan Williams, who had led off the inning with a double to left.
VCU wasted no time coming back, scoring three in the bottom of the inning off of senior starting pitcher Matt Davenport. Only two were earned after freshman right fielder Josh Smith committed an error that brought in a run.
The Tribe answered with a run in the fifth when Aiken led off with a single and eventually scored on a throwing error by the left fielder, then took the lead with two more in the eighth. Brown and sophomore third baseman Ryan Lindemuth — who led the College going 2 for 3 with a run — were both hit by pitches before senior left fielder Tadd Bower’s double to right plated them both, giving the Tribe a 4-3 lead.
But the bullpen wasn’t up to the task, as VCU broke out for four runs in the eighth off senior relief pitcher Jay McCarthy and then held on in the ninth for the 7-4 win.
The rubber game was even closer, and once again the Rams would pull it out near the end.
The College jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third when Nutter singled in Williams, who had doubled.
But VCU tied it up in the fifth with the help of a throwing error by freshman first baseman Michael Katz. The Tribe bounced right back, though, scoring three in the top of the sixth. Williams led off with another double, this time down the left field foul line, then moved to third on a bunt by Aiken. Nutter once again got the RBI, bringing Williams home on a sac fly to right. Brown then reached first and second on a throwing error before Bower drove him in with an RBI single to right. Finally, after Bower advanced to second on a wild pitch, Lindemuth picked up his team-leading 34th RBI of the year, scoring Bower with a single up the middle to give the College a 4-1 advantage.
The Rams climbed back into it with a run on two hits in the bottom half of the inning before both lineups fell silent for the next two innings.
The ninth, however, would be the Tribe’s undoing. Leoni stuck with senior starter Cole Shain, sending him back out for the last three outs, and VCU hopped on him with two singles to start the inning. Farrell then came on in relief and looked like he’d be able to close the door, retiring the first two hitters he faced. But a double by the third tied the game, and Jordan Weymouth won it with a walk-off single.
The College now stands on the outside of the playoff picture looking in from seventh place, a half-game behind Georgia State with nine conference games to play in the regular season. The Rams are also closing the gap between themselves and the College, currently just one game behind the Tribe.
After a Saturday doubleheader with Norfolk State, the College will return to CAA action when it takes on Old Dominion in a three-game set the following weekend at home.