RICHMOND, Va., March 18, 2011 - After allowing a five-run lead slip away in the final three innings, James Madison posted four unearned runs in the 10th inning to defeat VCU 12-8 in the opener of a three-game Colonial Athletic Association baseball series on Friday evening at The Diamond.
JMU improved to 14-4 overall and 6-1 in the CAA to pull into second place in the league standings. VCU dropped to 6-11 overall and lost its CAA opener to fall to 0-1.
JMU led 8-3 going to the bottom of the seventh but VCU responded with one in the seventh and a three-run eighth. In the ninth, the Dukes loaded the bases with no outs but a fielder's choice at home and a double play on an attempted sacrifice fly ended the inning.
In the VCU ninth, Lenherr doubled with one out and moved to third on a fly out to center. He then scored on a two-out wild pitch to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
In the 10th, the Rams' defense aided the Dukes to four unearned runs to pull out the victory. A passed ball on a Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) strikeout followed by an error put a runner on second with no outs. After a walk, junior catcher Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) doubled to the gap in left center to score Shaban with what proved to be the winning run. Senior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) added an RBI groundout. A pair of walks loaded the bases with two outs and an error at second base allowed two more JMU runs to score for the 12-8 lead.
The win still didn't come easy in the bottom of the 10th. Redshirt junior Sean Tierney (Midlothian, Va./Clover Hill) entered and the Rams loaded the bases on an error, a walk, and an infield single. Pinch hitter Chris Ayers came up as the potential tying run with no outs, but he grounded into a double play pitcher-to-catcher- to first for two quick outs and a strikeout clinched the win.
After blowing the save in the ninth, freshman Trent Cundiff (Roanoke, Va./Northside) picked up his first collegiate victory after JMU's rally in the 10th. He allowed one run on one hit in one inning of work.
Jonathan Watson took the loss for VCU after allowing the four unearned runs in the 10th. He allowed just one hit but walked three in two innings to fall to 1-3.
Lowery and Herbek each had two hits with a double for the Dukes. Herbek also had a sacrifice fly for a pair of RBIs. Sophomore left fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) and freshman designated hitter Tyler McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) each had a pair of RBIs. JMU matched its season high with seven stolen bases.
Catcher Taylor Perkins had two hits and three RBIs for the Rams. Center fielder Bill Cullen was 2-for-2 with an RBI and three walks. Lenherr and designated hitter Michael Cheatham were each 2-for-5 with two runs scored.
JMU built its lead with a McFarland RBI double and a Shaban RBI single in the second. The Dukes added a run in the third on a Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) RBI double in the third and then expanded the lead to 6-0 with McInturff's two-run single and Herbek's sacrifice fly in the fourth.
VCU answered with a three-run fourth of its own. After two outs to start the frame, the Rams loaded the bases and Perkins emptied them with a three-run double on a full-count pitch from junior starter Evan Scott (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield).
The Dukes then used steals to manufacture one run apiece in the sixth and seventh to build the 8-3 lead. Senior center fielder Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) singled, stole second, stole third, and scored on a passed ball in the sixth. Freshman third baseman Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) singled, stole second, stole third, and scored on an RBI groundout in the seventh.
That set the stage for VCU's comeback to tie the game. The Rams got one in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Paul Nice before then scoring three in the eighth on an RBI single by Cheatham, a sacrifice fly, and an infield single by Cullen.
JMU and VCU will contest the second game of the series on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.