Despite a strong outing by starting pitcher Zak Sterling, the baseball team’s errors and its sputtering offense cost it a loss to VCU for the second time in two days, conceding the series to its Atlantic 10 rival.
Sterling, a junior, pitched well for six and two-thirds innings of the 1-5 loss, giving up only two earned runs on eight hits and no walks with three strikeouts.
After allowing a run in the second inning on a triple and a single, Sterling settled in and retired 11 straight batters through the fifth inning.
The Rams took advantage of mistakes made in the sixth inning to break open what had previously been an uneventful pitchers’ duel. After one hit batter, three hits and two errors, VCU had taken a three-run lead.
Head coach Tracy Woodson thought Sterling’s start was great, but lamented the defense’s inability to support him during the sixth inning.
“We made mistakes at the wrong time,” Woodson said. “We should have been out of the inning, and Sterling ended up giving up three runs that inning and maybe should have given up none. That hurt.”
Though errors were ultimately what solidified the Spiders’ loss, VCU made three errors to Richmond’s two. The difference was the timing of the mistakes.
“We made mistakes. They made mistakes,” Woodson said. “But it’s with nobody on base. We make mistakes with two or three guys on. Those plays have to be made.”
Sterling gave up two more hits and a run in the seventh inning before sophomore Danny Martinson entered the game to relieve him.
Martinson and sophomore Tanner Stanley combined for two and one-third scoreless innings of relief, but the Richmond offense was not able to overcome the four-run deficit.
The offense had eight hits and four walks, but struck out nine times and stranded 14 men on base. The only run of the game was scored on junior right fielder Ryan Cook’s sacrifice fly in the first inning.
“Some guys are struggling right now, and it’s contagious,” Woodson said. “When one guy hits, everybody hits, and when one or two guys struggle, it seems like other guys struggle. It’s hard to score when only one or two guys are swinging the bat well.
The two players who have been consistently performing well on offense are sophomores Matt Dacey and Doug Kraeger. Dacey, the third baseman, was 3-for-8 so far in the series, and Kraeger, the first baseman, was 3-for-9. They were the only Richmond batters with multiple hits Saturday.
Sterling said losing the series to rival VCU stung, but was optimistic for a victory in the series finale.
“It’s a tough loss,” Sterling said. “We really wanted this win. All conference losses are tough, but we need to come back and get a win on Sunday so we can get one on the board.”
The Spiders will look to get that win and even their 5-6 in-conference record in the final game of the series 1 p.m. Sunday.
Contact staff writer Erin Flynn at email@example.com