SOUTH KINGSTOWN — After a frustrating loss in its home opener last week, the University of Rhode Island baseball team moved on to a simple objective as conference play began.
“We’ve got to play well,” URI coach Raphael Cerrato said. “We’ve got to win series.”
So far, so good.
The Rams followed the 6-5 home opener loss to Sacred Heart by taking two of three from George Washington this past weekend in their first Atlantic 10 set. They blasted the Colonials 19-1 in the series opener, dropped the next game 4-3 and won the rubber match by a 6-1 score on Sunday.
The series victory was a welcome sight after an inconsistent opening month that left URI with a 4-11 record. There were hints of promise in wins over Rice and Missouri – two programs with deep track records – but a downswing in a sweep at the hands of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. URI started to trend in a better direction when they split a four-game set with Wichita State. Sacred Heart provided another road block, taking advantage of nine walks by URI pitchers to score six runs on only six hits.
Five of the eight pitchers who took the hill delivered scoreless outings, including South Kingstown native Bo Brutti. The freshman struck out the side in the sixth inning.
“He threw great,” Cerrato said. “That’s the best he’s thrown this year.”
Jake Walker, Cam LaFleur, Mark Silvestri and Jon Morrison also didn’t allow a run.
“We had four good starts at Wichita and they’re a pretty good offensive team,” Cerrato said. “That was encouraging. Some of the guys threw well out of the pen. Even though we had a couple of bad innings this game, I feel like we’re starting to get it together on the mound. Even though it might not look like that in terms of numbers, I feel like we’re starting to get it together in terms of pitching and roles.”
URI has been without ace Tyler Wilson since the second weekend of the season. The former A-10 Pitcher of the Year, who has battled injuries since the 2016-17 season, pitched well in a season-opening win this year before departing his second start with a forearm strain. URI is hoping to have him back in the rotation by the second half of conference play.
On the offensive side, URI stranded nine runners against Sacred Heart as its early-season inconsistencies continued.
“We’re getting a lot of base runners. We have an idea of kind of who are nine or 10 guys are that we’re going with,” Cerrato said. “I think we’ve had 15 guys that have started games. Some guys are struggling who have had success in the past. If a couple of the other guys get going, I think we’re going to be really good offensively, better than last year. It’s getting there.”
The strong start to A-10 play was further proof that the Rams are heading in the right direction. The offense had its best day of the season in the opener, pounding 20 hits, six of which went for extra bases, in the 19-1 win. Mark Coley and Jackson Coutts homered, while Xavier Vargas went 4-for-5 with three runs scored. John Cristino added three RBI. The outburst provided more than enough for three pitchers. Ryan Twitchell tossed two scoreless innings and Dom Grillo followed with five more. Brutti allowed one run in two innings to finish off the win.
George Washington held off a URI rally to win the second game of the series. On Sunday, the Rams got one of their best starting pitching performances of the season as freshman Justin Cherry allowed one run in eight innings for the win. Vargas and Max Mircovich led the offensive attack with two RBI each.
URI has two non-conference games this week against Quinnipiac and Northeastern before hosting Richmond in an A-10 series this weekend.