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Virginia blows ninth inning lead, suffers devastating loss to VCU, 7-5

uva athleticsVirginia, its postseason hopes hanging by a thread, blew a 5-3 ninth inning lead in a 7-5 loss to VCU on Tuesday in Charlottesville.

The Rams (28-14) have now won 12 in a row, and swept the two-game home-and-home with UVA (22-21), which had just taken a weekend series from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

The ‘Hoos led 5-0 after six, but the Rams scored seven unanswered runs beginning in the seventh inning. A two-run homer by Connor Hujsak got the Rams on the board and snapped the Virginia bullpen’s 20.1 scoreless innings streak.

Two of the three runs in the seventh were unearned.

In the ninth, VCU sent nine batters to the plate and drew three walks and a hit by pitch in what proved to be the game-winning rally.

After pulling within a run on a bases loaded walk, the Rams took their first lead of the game on a two-out, three-RBI double by Liam Hibbits.

“Certainly, a very, very difficult loss,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “I thought Zach Messinger did a great job in the first half of the game, gave us a great quality start. We were not as opportunistic when we had chances as we need to be when you’re playing at home and have chances to put somebody away.”

The Cavaliers built a 5-0 lead over the first six innings, scoring four of its runs on two-out hits. Junior Nic Kent was credited with two of the four two-out RBI hits, one in the first and another in the third.

Kent went 3-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI.

Freshman Kyle Teel drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single to center that scored Max Cotier. Senior Alex Tappen capped a two-run rally in the third inning with a two-out double to left and put Virginia in front 4-0.

The lead was plentiful for starting pitcher Zach Messinger, who struck out five in five scoreless innings. The right-hander did not allow a runner to reach second base in his final four frames.

In two games against VCU this season, Messinger struck out 15 batters and did not issue a walk in a combined 9.1 innings.

Junior Blake Bales allowed an inherited runner to score on a groundout after coming on in relief with a runner on second and no one out in the seventh. The righty went on to strike out five of the six batters he faced over two innings of work.

Bales owns a 0.55 ERA on the season and has struck out 45 batters in 33 innings pitched.

Zack Gelof went 2-for-5 from the leadoff spot and singled in the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate.

Freshman Jake Gelof put forth his second multi-hit effort in the last four games and finished 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored.

The Cavaliers will break for final exams and return to action on May 14 to begin a three-game series at home against Wake Forest.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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