BRONX, N.Y. - Home runs from Jacob Mayers, Chris Cowell, and Phil Ruzbarsky helped lead the University of Richmond Spiders to a 9-5 win over Massachusetts in the first round of the 2012 Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Spiders improve to 28-24 on the season while the Minutemen fall to 22-21 on the year.
With the win, the No. 5-seeded Richmond Spiders will now play the No. 1-seeded St. Louis Billikens on Thursday at 12 p.m. A live broadcast and live stats for the game can be found at RichmondSpiders.com.
"It was a great team effort today," head coach Mark McQueen said after the win. "I thought today was one of our best offensive performances of the season, while getting two great efforts on the mound from Alex Maffett and Andrew Brockett. I expect a similar effort tomorrow against St. Louis."
Junior Jacob Mayers went 2-for-4 on the day with a home run and four RBIs to lead the Spiders to the win. Senior Phil Ruzbarsky had three hits including a solo homer, while classmate Chris Cowell had a two-run blast. Redshirt junior Matt Zink had three hits, including two doubles, while Bryan Conway had a pair of knocks. Sophomore Adam Forrer also drove in a run for Richmond.
On the mound, senior Alex Maffett (5-2) posted his third-straight strong performance for the Spiders. Maffett pitched 6.2 innings, allowing four runs while striking out three in the winning effort. Sophomore Andrew Brockett came in to close the game out, pitching the final 2.1 innings to collect his sixth save of the year. Brockett allowed one unearned run while striking out five.
The Spiders started the game off with a bang, pushing across three runs before recording their first out. After a leadoff double from Zink, redshirt junior Adam McConnell was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second for Mayers. After taking a strike, Mayers crushed a 0-1 offering over the fence in left field, giving Richmond a 3-0 lead on the three-run home run. The blast was the 10th of the season for the All-Atlantic 10 First Team honoree.
Massachusetts answered back, however, scoring one run in the bottom of the first and two more in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 3-3.
In the top of the fifth inning, the fireworks continued for the Spiders. After Mayers drew a leadoff walk, Cowell smashed a long, towering home run over the left-center field fence for a two-run shot. Cowell's Atlantic 10 leading 19th home run of the season gave Richmond the lead back at 5-3.
The scoring continued for the Spiders later in the inning when the team pulled off a well-executed double steal. With Ruzbarsky at third base and senior Bryan Conway at first, Conway took off from first on a strike-three call to Ryan Mallory. Before reaching second base, Conway turned back towards first as Ruzbarsky took off from third. Ruzbarsky would beat the late-arriving throw to home to notch the sixth run of the game for Richmond. With its second three-run inning of the game, the Spiders took a 6-3 lead over UMass.
With its 6-3 lead in hand, Richmond added to its lead with its third home run of the game. With one out, Ruzbarsky took a 1-0 pitch to deep center field, easily clearing the 400' sign on a line drive. The senior's ninth homer of the season gave the Spiders a 7-3 advantage over Massachusetts.
After the Minutemen scored a run in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to 7-4, the Spiders came right back with two runs in the top of the eighth. After another double off the bat of Zink and a sacrifice bunt, a runner was on third with one out for Mayers. Swinging at the first pitch, Mayers lined a single to center to tally his fourth RBI of the day. Richmond added another in the frame when Forrer drew a two out, bases loaded walk, making its lead 9-4 over UMass.
The Minutemen pushed across one unearned run in the bottom of the ninth, but the rally fell well short. Richmond took the pivotal first round game over Massachusetts, 9-5.
The Richmond Spiders will play the St. Louis Billikens on Thursday at Houlihan Park in the Bronx. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m.