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VCU falls in season finale

After a scoreless 4 1/2 innings, VCU and UNC Wilmington combined to plate 15 runs during the final five frames, including a pair of key UNCW homers, and the Seahawks held on to defeat the Rams 9-7 Saturday afternoon in the finale of a three-game Colonial Athletic Association series at Brooks Field.

Andrew Cain hit a three-run shot to put the Seahawks in front 3-0 in the fifth and a two-run blast by Matt Campbell allowed UNC Wilmington to regain the lead in the eighth. VCU pulled within two in the top of the ninth and sent the go-ahead run to the plate, but the Seahawks closed the door and held on to win the series.

VCU concludes the 2011 season 22-32 overall with a 12-18 mark in CAA play. UNC Wilmington, which earned the No. 3 seed in next week’s four-team CAA Tournament, runs its record to 30-26, 18-12.

Senior John Lenherr finished 3-for-5 with two RBI, while junior Taylor Perkins went 2-for-5 and drove in a pair of runs. Freshman Bill Cullen, who was hitless for the first time since April 30, saw his career-long 13-game hitting streak come to an end.

Andrew Harnage (3-1) picked up the win in relief for the Seahawks, while VCU senior reliever Jonathan Watson (4-6) suffered the loss, tossing the final 1 2/3 innings. William Prince recorded the final out for his fifth save of the season. UNC Wilmington starter Tyler McSwain allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits in 7 2/3 innings but did not record a decision as the Rams rallied in the eighth.

VCU had its leadoff batter reach in three of first five innings but the Rams couldn’t scratch an early run. UNC Wilmington had similar luck, collecting four hits while stranding a runner in scoring position in two of its first three trips until Cain belted a three-run homer over the right field fence to give the Seahawks a 3-0 lead in the fifth.

The Rams quickly responded to tie the score with a three-run sixth inning of their own. Cullen reached on a fielding error by shortstop Jake Koenig before freshman Joey Cujas drew a one-out walk and senior Michael Cheatham reached on an infield single. Lenherr then drove in a pair with a double into shallow center field, just out of the reach of a diving Cain, and a RBI groundout by Perkins capped the inning to make it 3-3.

The scoring spree continued in the bottom of the sixth as UNC Wilmington regained the lead with back-to-back doubles by David Shambley and Alex Hill. McSwain then issued consecutive walks to seniors Michael Caddell and Ryan Caldwell to start the seventh but forced Cullen into a 4-6-3 double play. Junior Paul Nice eventually flew out to deep right-center and the Rams stranded the tying run 90 feet away.

The Seahawks added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the inning after Michael Bass, who led off with a single, scored on a double by Hunter Ridge before Shambley made it 6-3 with an infield single off the glove of Watson with the bases loaded.

VCU wouldn’t go away and scored three runs with two outs in the eighth to tie the game. Perkins pulled the Rams within two with a base hit up the middle and Caddell, who battled with two strikes, sent a ball back up the middle and knotted the score again at 6-6.

However, the long ball would prove to be the difference in the game as Campbell lifted a two-run shot over the left field wall to put UNC Wilmington back in front in the bottom of the inning. Shambley capped off the frame with a base hit into right to extend the Seahawks’ lead to 9-6.

The Rams tried to rally again in the top of the ninth as Nice was hit by a pitch with one out. Cujas singled into right-center to place runners on the corners with one out and a sacrifice fly by Cheatham pulled VCU within 9-7 a batter later. A base hit by Lenherr sent the go-ahead run to the plate but Prince got Perkins to pop up to end the game.