BRONX, N.Y. - The Richmond Spiders staged a late, ninth-inning rally to reach their second-straight Atlantic 10 Championship final on Friday night, defeating the No. 1-seeded Saint Louis Billikens, 3-2. The win pushes the Spiders' overall record to 30-25 on the season, while Saint Louis falls to 41-18.
With the victory, the No. 5-seeded Spiders will play the No. 2-seeded Dayton Flyers for the 2012 Atlantic 10 Championship. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m. If Richmond defeats the Flyers at noon, the two teams will play for the championship immediately following completion of the first.
"A tremendous, all-around effort from the entire team tonight," Richmond head coach Mark McQueen said. "I couldn't be prouder of this team and these seniors. To reach the Atlantic 10 Championship game two years in a row says a lot about Spider baseball."
After starter Jacob Mayers was injured before finishing his warm up pitches, redshirt junior Bret Williams was thrust in to the emergency start. Williams pitched valiantly for the Spiders, tossing six innings while allowing just two earned runs. Sophomore Andrew Brockett earned the win for the Spiders, pitching three hitless innings. Brockett struck out two while walking just one.
After Saint Louis scored a run in the top of the first inning, the Spiders answered right back in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Adam McConnell singled and then moved to third base on a Mayers double down the right-field line. After a walk to Chris Cowell, the bases were loaded for Ruzbarsky. On a 1-0 pitch, Ruzbarsky grounded in to a fielder's choice, plating McConnell to tie the game at 1-1.
In the top of the third inning, the Billikens reclaimed the lead, scoring one run on a RBI triple. For the next three innings, Williams was able to keep the top-ranked Saint Louis squad off the scoreboard, keeping the deficit at one.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Spiders appeared to have tied the game, but a controversial call took a run off the board. After a single and a sacrifice bunt, Ruzbarsky was on second base with one out. On a 2-1 count, Adam Forrer laced a double down the right field line. Ruzbarsky easily scored on the play, but after the action had ended, the home plate umpire overturned the fair call made by the first base umpire. The run was taken off the board and a groundout and fly out ended the Richmond threat.
One inning later, the Spiders fought back. After a walk, sacrifice bunt, and another walk, runners were on first and second with one out. On a 0-1 pitch, Mayers grounded out to the shortstop. The SLU shortstop flipped to second to get the force, but trying to get the double play, the throw got away from the Billiken second baseman, allowing the game-tying run to score from third base on the error. Headed to the ninth, the game was tied at 2-2.
After Brockett sat the Billikens down in order in the top of the ninth, the Spiders had a chance to clinch a berth to the championship game. After two quick outs, Richmond staged a two-out rally. Ryan Mallory started it, drawing a walk. Next, Small singled to the SLU shortstop, putting runners on first and second for Matt Zink.
On a 2-1 count, Zink grounded sharply up the middle. The Saint Louis second baseman ranged to his right and tried to backhand the ball, but was unable to field it cleanly. Pinch running for Mallory, Nick Poulos came around from second, scoring the winning run that sent the Spiders to their second-straight A-10 Championship final.
The championship game appearance is the fourth in program history for the Spiders. Richmond reached the final in 2002, 2003, and 2011 the previous three times. The Spiders' lone Atlantic 10 Championship came during the 2003 season. The 30 wins for Richmond are the most for the team since the 2007 campaign.
The Richmond Spiders will look to capture their second Atlantic 10 title in program history on Saturday in the Bronx. First pitch of game one against Dayton is scheduled for 12 p.m.