The Atlantic 10 moved to four-game weekend series this year to accommodate COVID-19 scheduling challenges, and the University of Rhode Island earned an even split of its first such series. La Salle won the A-10 opener in Philadelphia on Friday before the Rams swept both ends of a Saturday doubleheader. The Explorers came back with a 7-3 win on Sunday in the series finale.
The Rams appeared well on their way to a win in the opener when La Salle scored seven unanswered runs late to rally for an 8-5 win Friday afternoon.
Rhode Island led 5-1 through six innings. Mark Coley’s three-run home run in the fourth inning was the big hit for the Rams. Starting pitcher Ryan Twitchell shined, limiting the Explorers to one run on four hits over six innings.
La Salle chipped away with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to get within 5-4. In the eighth inning, the Explorers got the first two hitters on with a single and walk. The next batter put down a bunt and beat the play. Lead runner Nick Di Vietro came around the tie the score when the throw to first was errant. After a pop out, La Salle tried a squeeze play. Rhody first baseman Xavier Vargas pounced on the play and was able to get pinch runner Tommy Toal out at the plate. With the Rams one out away from getting out of the jam, Tatem Levins launched a three-run home run deep to right field, putting La Salle up, 8-5. Rhode Island got one runner on in the ninth, but Explorer reliever Colin Kennedy struck out the side to secure the win for La Salle.
Strong pitching powered Saturday’s doubleheader sweep as Mike Webb and Domenic Picone each logged solid starts in 4-2 and 12-6 wins.
Webb went eight innings and the Rams scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth for the extra-inning win. The transfer from Rhode Island College retired the first 12 batters he faced and did not allow a hit until one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. In that frame, La Salle used a walk, an error and a single by Di Vietro to score a pair of unearned runs to take a 2-1 lead. Rhode Island came right back to tie it in the top of the sixth when Sonny Ulliana walked and advanced on a wild pitch. Vargas followed with an RBI double to even the score. In the top of the eighth, new league rules meant URI started with a runner on second base in extra innings. With Joe Fortin placed on second, Ulliana doubled to left field to drive Fortin in. Vargas delivered his second RBI double of the game to make the score 4-2. Webb sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a groundout to retire the side in order in the bottom of the eighth and secure the win.
In game two, Picone tossed five shutout innings with nine strikeouts and had plenty of help from the URI offense. Rhody scored three runs each in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings as the bottom third of the order led the way.
Coley, Jordan Laske and Tino Salgado combined for five hits, three walks, seven runs scored and six runs batted in. Coley reached safely and scored all four times he went to the plate, while Salgado drove in four runs, two of which came on the first home run of his career.
Rhode Island jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first half inning of Sunday’s game, it but was held scoreless the rest of the way in a 7-3 loss. The Rams (13-15-1, 2-2 Atlantic 10) got three runs and three doubles in their first turn at bat. Austin White led off the game with a double, and one out later Ulliana drove him in with a double of his own. After a two-out walk to Coley, Fortin doubled down the right field line to drive in both runners.
La Salle (15-11, 2-2 A-10) slowly chipped away, scoring single runs in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings to take a 4-3 lead. The Explorers then scored three times in the bottom of the eighth inning to put the game away. Rhode Island continued to struggle in the field, committing two errors. Over the course of the four-game series, the Rams made eight errors.
URI is sitting at 13-15-1 overall. A-10 play was set to continue this weekend but a series with Fordham was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols for URI.