CLOSING TIME; HAUSER THRIVING IN LATE GAME ROLE

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Blake Hauser, in his first year as VCU’s closer, is 4-1 with 10 saves and a 2.22 ERA.

A curious text message appeared on the phone of VCU Interim Baseball Coach Shawn Stiffler’s recently. It was from a recruit who had one simple burning question: “Can you turn me into Blake Hauser?”

After two underwhelming seasons in VCU uniform, Hauser is thriving this year after converting from starter to closer for the Rams, catching the attention of fans, scouts and recruits alike.

In 26 appearances, the Chesterfield, Va. native has a 4-1 record, 10 saves and a 2.22 ERA. In 28.1 innings, the hard-throwing righty has struck out 54 – an average of more than 17 per nine innings – and allowed just nine hits. If not for 24 walks, his ERA might be microscopic.

But Hauser didn’t get to this point in his career easily. Drafted in the 25th round in 2009 by the Cleveland Indians out of Manchester High School, Hauser instead chose to play for VCU Coach Paul Keyes and the Rams. Armed with an exploding, 95 mile-and-hour fastball, his arrival was met with much fanfare.

It didn’t work out like it was supposed to.

Hauser struggled with his command and posted a 4-4 record with a gaudy 7.07 ERA in 11 games, including 10 starts, as a freshman. As a sophomore he posted a 3-4 record with a 4.65 ERA in 12 appearances, nine of them starts. It was progress, but not the type of performance he or others had envisioned. Frustration set in.

“Not really towards anybody or anything, but at myself,” Hauser said. “I didn’t really contribute as much as I should have. Not even close. And I felt like I could’ve helped the team out and I really didn’t do much, and it was really frustrating.”

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IT MAY COME DOWN TO THIS

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Senior righty Seth Cutler-Voltz his 4-2 with a 4.53 ERA this season. He will take the mound Saturday for VCU.

RICHMOND, Va. – The postseason hopes of the VCU Baseball team may be on the line this weekend at The Diamond.

The Rams (25-20, 11-13 CAA) host Georgia State (19-26, 10-11 CAA) in a pivotal three-game set beginning Friday at 6 p.m. The Panthers are one of three teams tied for fifth in the league with the Rams close behind. The league’s top six teams qualify for the CAA Tournament May 23-26 in Harrisonburg, Va. After this weekend, the Rams have just one league series (at James Madison May 11-13) remaining to improve their league standing.

Here are the CAA standings as of this morning (CAA records only):
1-UNC Wilmington 17-4
2-Hofstra 14-7
3-George Mason 15-9
4-Delaware 11-10
t5-William & Mary 10-11
t5-Towson 10-11
t5-Georgia State 10-11
8-VCU 11-13

9-JMU 9-15
10-Northeastern 7-14
11-Old Dominion 6-15
12-Drexel (just kidding, Drexel only plays basketball and lacrosse)

The Rams are just a half game back of fifth place. This weekend could turn the whole thing upside down.

And here is how the weekend stacks up:

Friday, May 4, 6 p.m.
GSU: Justin Malone, RHP, 1-2, 5.47 ERA
VCU: Ryan Farrar, LHP, 4-3, 3.03 ERA

Saturday, May 5, 3 p.m.
GSU: Ben Marshall, RHP, 4-5, 3.41 ERA
VCU: Seth Cutler-Voltz, RHP, 4-2, 4.53 ERA

Sunday, May 6, 1 p.m.
GSU: Tyler Claburn, RHP, 4-1, 8.05 ERA
VCU: Kyle Haynes, RHP, 3-4, 4.00 ERA

If the Rams can win two of three this weekend, they vault themselves into the middle of the race. A sweep would essentially eliminate Georgia State from this discussion. Meanwhile, Towson will be at first place UNC Wilmington this weekend, William & Mary will be hosting last place Old Dominion (writing “last place ODU” never gets old). Delaware, also within VCU’s reach, will be at George Mason this weekend. The Rams will have plenty of opportunity to grab a CAA Tournament berth down the stretch, but that campaign has to begin tonight at The Diamond.

Cliff notes:
- VCU locked in tight race for CAA Tourney bid
-Five teams fighting for four spots
-Dollar dogs at The Diamond
-Temps in the 80s

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