THE YEAR IN VCU ATHLETICS, FROM A TO Z

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Wrong A-B-C...whatever, close enough.

Wrong A-B-C…whatever, close enough.

June marks the conclusion of the college athletics calendar, and July’s arrival effectively signals the beginning of the 2013-14 season, at least for those of us in the biz, anyway. It all makes this week a good time to reflect back on the year that was in VCU Athletics.

A – is for Atlantic 10 Conference, in which, according to our slogan, the Rams were ‘all-in’. We were also all-in for another season of “Arrested Development” and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches, so we’re having a good year. VCU competed in the A-10 for the first time in 2012-13, a move that has elevated the program’s national profile. The Rams’ first A-10 title came via the women’s tennis squad, followed by a men’s tennis crown days later. Meanwhile, several other sports (men’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer) reached the league’s championship final.

B – is for the Ball family, one of the driving forces behind the VCU Golf program. They’re like the Kennedy’s of VCU Golf, but with a better short game. Matt Ball may have just completed his 14th season with the Rams, but this one was surely different than the others. That’s because 40 percent of his starting lineup was occupied by sons Adam and Matt Jr. Son Adam, a freshman, led the Rams in scoring average (73.53) this year, while Matt Jr., a junior, placed seventh at the A-10 Championship and was named to the league’s All-Academic Team.

C – is for Courtney Conrad, the alliteratively named star of the women’s soccer team. Conrad led the Rams with 11 goals, including five game-winners, and received All-Mid-Atlantic by the NSCAA.

D – is for Daniels, Troy. If you are a fan of basketball players who score three points at a time (and the signed, obscure Mark Price picture in my dining room proves I am), then you would’ve enjoyed Daniels’ 2012-13 season. In 36 games, Daniels bombed a school-record 124 three-pointers, including games of 11, nine and eight.

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THE BATTLE FOR RICHMOND

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VCU Baseball hosts Richmond at The Diamond for a three-game set to close the regular season. The series starts Thursday at 6 p.m., followed by an 11 a.m. contest on Friday and a  10:30 a.m. tilt on Saturday. The Rams (25-26) still have a mathematical shot at playing in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, so there’s more than just city bragging rights at stake.

FARRAR PLAYS THE LONG GAME

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VCU senior pitcher Ryan Farrar is 4-4 this season with a 3.73 ERA in 10 starts.

VCU senior pitcher Ryan Farrar is 4-4 this season with a 3.73 ERA in 10 starts.

RICHMOND, Va. – Ryan Farrar needed some time to think. His professional baseball dream was dangling in front of him like a carrot on a string, and he had a potentially life-changing decision to make. He walked out of his parents’ kitchen and onto the front porch and buried his head in his hands.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had called in 11th round of last year’s amateur draft and made the VCU left-handed pitcher an offer. It wasn’t run-out-and-get-a-Rolls money. It wasn’t even what Farrar had mentally set as his minimum requirement, but it was a chance to play baseball for a living. On the other hand, Farrar still had one year of eligibility remaining, another year of college, another year to polish his skills.

A lot of players would spring out of their cleats for a shot at pro ball. But Farrar was waging an inner war.

“It was awful,” he says. “I just sat on my front porch by myself. I didn’t want to be around anyone, and I was pulling my hair out of my head and thinking, ‘How can I turn down this kind of money to go play baseball?’”

Farrar looked his boyhood dream in the eyes and said, “No thanks.”

He told the Pirates it was about the money, but Farrar says that was a convenient excuse, his “out pitch”, if you will.

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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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