Baseball Swept By Conference-Leading VCU


The Rams currently sit in the final A-10 playoff spot.

By Jack McCloone

The Rams currently sit in the final A-10 playoff spot. ( Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

It was the Battle of the Rams in the Bronx, and the Rams of Fordham were swept by the Rams of VCU over the weekend.

Fordham was coming off of a successful Easter break, where they won five straight, including a sweep of St. Joseph’s, who knocked them out of the Atlantic 10 tournament last season.

However, they followed  that with back-to-back losses to Fairfield and Connecticut heading into the weekend.

The starting pitching for Fordham continued to be stellar over the course of the entire weekend. Sophomore Mike Cowell tossed six strong innings in the first game on Friday, his only blemish a solo home run off the bat of Darian Carpenter in the sixth to tie the game at one.

The Rams took the lead back in the seventh inning off of a squeeze bunt laid down by sophomore second baseman Reiss Knehr, which brought home senior designated hitter Ryan Mahoney.

After working a clean top half of the seventh, sophomore pitcher Anthony DiMeglio struggled in his second appearance since early March. After giving up a leadoff single and inducing two foul outs, he walked the next two batters, loading the bases. That brought in freshman de facto closer Alvin Melendez, who immediately gave up a two-RBI single to Zac Ching, which gave VCU the first win of the series, 3-2.

The Ram pitching staff continued to struggle to finish innings in game two on Saturday. Graduate student Jimmy Murphy took the mound after a half hour rain delay, and looked as though he may have been thrown off by the delay. After getting two quick outs to start the game, Murphy allowed back-to-back doubles that gave VCU an early one-run lead.

It was a similar story in the third inning. After erasing the leadoff man in the inning when he was caught stealing and getting a foul pop out, the VCU bats once again pushed a run across with two outs to go up 2-0.

Fordham did not get a baserunner past first until the fourth inning when a walk pushed freshman Jake Baker to second. The runners were moved to second and third on a sacrifice bunt, but senior shortstop Luke Stampfl – who was playing in his third game since missing nine games to an injury – struck out and freshman shortstop Matt Tarabek grounded out to second.

“Luke was an important part of our offense at the beginning of the year and having him back should help,” said head coach Kevin Leighton.

Fordham had just six hits on the day, and all were singles. The only other time they had a runner pass first base was down 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth when a groundout by freshman first baseman Goulard pushed Stampfl to second.

If Fordham was going to steal a game, it was going to be in the rubber match on Sunday. They sent Knehr to the mound, who was coming off of a historic start against St. Joseph’s. He had a career-high 16 strikeouts, including 11 in a row, and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

He did not look nearly as sharp on Sunday, which could have been due in part to the incredible plate discipline for VCU from top to bottom. In the second inning, it appeared as though he had caught the two-out rally bug from Murphy a day prior. He allowed a walk and two singles with two outs, but then struck out Farrar to end the threat.

VCU tagged him for two runs in the top of the third, when Darian Carpenter hit a two-run home run, his second of the weekend.

Fordham was able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth when Mahoney, back in the lineup against a right-hander, singled home sophomore catcher Justin Bardwell, but two runs were stranded in scoring position.

Knehr unspooled a little more in the fifth, hitting the first batter he faced. After inducing a fly out and ground out, he once again walked a batter with two outs. And again, VCU made him pay when Brett Willett singled in the run to take a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth.

“I thought Reiss battled against a solid line up,” said Leighton. “He was around the zone, but not getting the close ones, which sometimes happens.  The only real mistake he made was to Carpenter.  He fights every time out there and that’s what we need.”

After two clean innings from freshman Kyle Martin and another second and third opportunity squandered, the eighth inning was action-packed. Melendez came in for relief, and could not find the strike zone. He got the first batter to ground out, but walked the next two batters in nine pitches, including seven straight balls. Senior Shane McDonald was able to prevent any runs from crossing after Leighton pulled Melendez from the game.

In the bottom of the eighth, Goulard atoned for a double play that squandered an early scoring opportunity by roping a two-RBI triple to tie the game at 3. After clean innings for both sides in the ninth, the final game of the series went to the tenth inning.

One final time, Fordham could not finish after getting two quick outs. McDonald gave up back-to-back two-out singles, and then freshman Brandon Martin gave up an RBI single of his own to the first batter he faced, putting VCU up 4-3. After a leadoff single in the bottom of the frame by Bardwell and a sacrifice bunt moved him to second, the Rams could not move him up any more and fell 4-3.

After the sweep, Fordham is now 18-18 on the season and 7-7 in conference play.

Their next matchup is not any easier, as Fordham travels to Rhode Island this weekend for another Battle of the Rams. URI is second in the A-10. The first game is on Friday, April 28 at 3 p.m.