DALLAS —The ‘We Believe!’ chants sprouted up before the bottom of the ninth inning.
VCU led host Dallas Baptist, 3-1, in the deciding game of the Dallas Regional. Dallas Baptist sent had its third, fourth, and fifth hitters due up as VCU reliever Matt Lees took the mound for his fourth inning in the game sixth inning on the day. The Dallas Baptist crowd stood and chanted.
Dallas Baptist outfielder Justin Wall ripped a single between the shortstop and the third baseman. The chant grew louder. It didn’t last long though.
Lees focused on forcing groundballs, and got three of them in a row to seal VCU’s 3-1 victory, send the school to its first ever Super Regional, and set off a dog pile in the infield.
“I kind of just went about doing my own thing,” Lees said. “After he got the single, I was like, ‘Alright, they’ve been hitting groundballs off of me all day, just keep doing what I’m doing and that’s exactly what I did.”
VCU is the fifth No. 4 seed to advance to the Super Regional round. It will play Miami.
“This is a day I’ll never forget,” VCU coach Shawn Stiffler said. “I’m certain a lot people down on Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia will never forget it either.”
VCU entered the regional staring at two traditional powers, Oregon State and Texas, and Dallas Baptist the team ranked No. 1 in RPI most of the year. VCU lost just once and allowed just six runs in four games.
The loss came earlier Monday when hitters couldn’t figure MLB-bound Dallas Baptist reliever Brandon Koch and VCU lost, 2-1.
VCU coach Shawn Stiffler said he didn’t have to say anything between games. His team expected to play two games today.
Facing the same pitcher they faced in their first regional game, Joseph Shaw, VCU opened the scoring in the second game of the day in the second inning. Shortstop Vimael Machin — the regional’s most outstanding player — drew a leadoff walk and Brett Hileman singled to ignite a two-run inning. Shaw lasted just 1 1/3 innings.
In the fourth, Dallas Baptist had two runners on with no outs. Facing cleanup hitter Daniel Salters, VCU pitcher Shawn Thompson ran the count to 3-0 before coming back and striking out Salters. Dallas Baptist scored on a fielder’s choice on the next at bat, but Thompson got out of the inning the lead intact.
Lees came in in the middle of the fifth and allowed one hit the rest of the way.
“One of the parents said we were a biker gang invading a church picnic,” Stiffler said. “We knew the history of Texas and Oregon State and on top of that Dallas Baptist doesn’t have quite that history and tradition but they’re on the rise in a huge way.
“We knew what was in front of us. We believe in us, we believe in our program. … We’ve been playing hot so were like, ‘Why not? Let’s just stay hot and see what happens.’ This is what happened.”