CAMDEN, NJ (WWBT) - The Spider baseball team showed Wednesday that they weren't just happy to be back in the Atlantic-10 Tournament for the first time since 2004. The fifth-seeded Spiders knocked off fourth-seeded Xavier 5-4 in the opening round in Camden, NJ.
Richmond jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning and held off a late rally. Phil Ruzbarsky had three hits and Mike Mergenthaler drove in two for the fifth-seeded Spiders who face top-seeded Charlotte Thursday at 12 p.m.
With its third win in four tries this season over Xavier, Richmond improved to 27-25-2 overall and won the program's 14th A-10 Tournament game (14-9). The Spiders own the most A-10 Tournament wins of any active team in the league.
Working on short rest, senior RHP Anthony Cafagna gave the Spiders a gutsy effort, allowing just two runs in 4.1 innings with no walks and a strikeout. The senior was able to weasel out of big-time trouble in fourth as Xavier loaded the bases with no outs, but came away with just Ben Thomas' lead-off home run that inning. Cafagna would work a fly ball from Selby Chidemo, and a pair of line-drive outs to Patrick Paligraf and Mitch Elliott to keep the 3-1 lead in check.
Mergenthaler, who finished two-for-three with a run and two RBI, got the scoring started for Richmond, which scored three times with two outs in the third inning. Xavier starter Jon Richard retired the first two Spiders before Ruzbarsky and Matt Zink ripped singles and Mergenthaler brought them both home with a laser to center.
Mergenthaler eventually moved to third thanks to a Jacob Mayers' double and scored from third on a wild pitch to give the Spiders a 3-0 lead. After Cafagna dodged the bases-loaded jam in the fourth, Richmond tacked on two more in the fifth with back-to-back RBI from Mayers and Billy Barber.
Freshman Andrew Brockett relieved Cafagna in another jam in the bottom of the fifth, coming on with one out and a pair of Musketeers in scoring position only to set Seth Willoughby down looking and get Ryan Bellamy to fly out.
But Xavier kept nipping away, scoring once in the bottom of the seventh and once more in the eighth to pull within one. The Musketeers pounded out 13 hits, but left 12 runners on base, including nine in scoring position.
Mayers fired 1.2 innings of scoreless relief for the Spiders and Barber recorded the final out as he worked a fly ball from Paligraf after the Musketeers put the go-ahead run on base in the ninth.
Brockett was credited with the win (3-4), going 2.2 innings with two hits and a run, while Barber picked up his fourth save. Richard was tagged for five runs on eight hits in seven innings and was dealt the loss (5-5).
Ruzbarsky finished the day three-for-four and scored twice while the Spiders got another gutsy effort from Zink, who was playing with an injured right shoulder and had two hits and scored twice. Ruzbarsky, Zink and Mergenthaler - the 1-2-3 hitters in Richmond's lineup - combined for seven of the 10 hits and scored all five runs.
The winner of Thursday's Richmond-Charlotte game advances to the A-10 Semifinals Friday at noon, while the loser would either play Thursday at 7 p.m. or Friday at 3 p.m. (based on seeds) in the double-elimination tournament.