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Pair of late homers lifts VCU

A pair of seventh-inning solo home runs by senior Michael Cheatham and sophomore Nick Kime proved to be the difference in Virginia Commonwealth University’s 4-3 victory over Northeastern University Sunday afternoon at The Diamond.

VCU avoids its first Colonial Athletic Association sweep with the win, improving to 14-20 overall, 7-8 in league play. Northeastern, which had its six-game winning streak snapped, slips to 11-21, 6-9.

Freshman Joey Cujas went 2-for-4, while classmate Bill Cullen, who played a role in two of VCU’s runs, finished 1-for-4 with a RBI and run. Oliver Hart went 2-for-3 and Matt Miller drove in three runs to pace Northeastern offensively.

Senior David Benson worked 7.2 innings, allowing three runs on six hits with four strikeouts to earn his second win of the season. Northeastern starter Brandon McNelis suffered the loss after surrendering four runs (three earned) on seven hits in 6.2 innings. Senior Jonathan Watson tossed the final 1.1 frames to post his third save.

VCU plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the third to stake an early lead. Kime drew a leadoff walk and later scored on a single by Cullen. Then a pair of stolen bases by Cullen and a throwing error by McNelis allowed the Rams to take a 2-0 advantage.

Benson faced the minimum through four and the VCU defense turned an inning-ending double play to keep the Huskies scoreless through five. But Northeastern eventually cut the Rams’ lead in half in the sixth. Alan Pastyrnak was hit by a pitch to start the frame and Hart followed with a single into right. After Aaron Barbosa advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, an RBI groundout by Miller pulled the Huskies within 2-1.

Cheatham and Kime each blasted solo home runs in the seventh to give VCU a three-run cushion. It was Cheatham’s first of the season and Kime’s team-high-tying third.

However, back-to-back singles and a groundout placed a pair of runners in scoring position with two outs in the eighth for Northeastern. Miller then singled through the right side to cut the Rams’ lead to 4-3.

After hitting the first batter he faced in the eighth, Watson retired the final four Huskies to secure the win.

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