The University of Rhode Island baseball team won its first game at the Atlantic 10 Tournament but dropped the next two as its season came to an end.
The Rams opened play in the four-team, double-elimination bracket with an 8-2 victory over Dayton last Thursday. That set up a meeting with red hot top seed VCU in the winners bracket final on Friday. Rhody led 4-2 in the seventh but watched VCU score six in the eighth and two in the ninth en route to a 10-4 win. In a losers bracket rematch with Dayton, the Rams were shut out from the second inning on and lost 3-1. VCU went on to win the conference title and is the lone A-10 representative in the NCAA Tournament.
URI entered the tournament with four straight wins and made it five with the opening-round triumph over Dayton. Sonny Ulliana had an RBI double and Xavier Vargas had a two-run single in a big first inning. The Rams made it 7-0 in the second inning thanks to a three-run homer by Ulliana.
The early lead was plenty for Ryan Twitchell and Broc French. Twitchell struck out six in five shutout innings. French allowed two solo home runs but nothing else in four innings of relief.
Two pitchers with the same last name dominated in the early going of Friday’s game between Rhody and VCU. URI’s Mike Webb took a shutout into the sixth. VCU’s Bradford Webb tossed five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.
VCU scored first with two runs in the sixth inning. Rhody answered with two of its own in the bottom half on a double by Max Mircovich. Ulliana then delivered his second home run in as many days, blasting a two-run shot in the seventh for a 4-2 lead.
VCU exploded in the eighth with six runs on seven hits. Hunter Vay’s two-run homer tied the game. Hogan Brown’s sacrifice fly gave VCU the lead, and three more hits followed as VCU piled on.
Rhody stayed on the field for the losers bracket game with Dayton immediately following the loss to VCU. The Flyers jumped out with two runs in the top of the first inning. Rhody got one back in the bottom of the inning on an RBI fielder’s choice but wouldn’t score again. Dayton’s R.J. Wagner allowed just that run and only four hits in eight innings of work. URI put the tying run on base in the ninth inning but couldn’t push it across.
VCU beat Dayton 7-6 in Saturday’s championship round. The champs enter the NCAA Tournament on a 21-game winning streak.
Twitchell, Webb and Ulliana earned all-tournament honors for URI, which finished the year with a 28-26-1 record.