May 31, 2003


Crying wolf

Rams unhappy about fence flap

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder

WILSON, N.C. – Even before North Carolina State edged Virginia Commonwealth, Rams officials weren’t too pleased with the fence situation at Fleming Stadium.


“If they wanted to change before the tournament started, that’s fine, that’s their prerogative,” VCU Athletic Director Dr. Richard Sander said. “But not two games into the tournament. It’s just not right.”


Tournament officials and coaches met around midnight Friday night to discuss the issue. Before the tournament started, a white section of fencing – the Performance Heating and Cooling sign – just right of center field was replaced with blue and green signs, according to VCU officials. On Saturday, a black piece of windscreen was draped over the new signs. That move peeved the Rams, who thought the switch was made because they were throwing a lefty whose pitches might get lost in the signs.


“We’re not stupid, we know it’s an advantage,” Sander said.


One reason behind the switch dealt with safety, according to Sander.


“They talked about a safety issue,” Sander said. “N.C. State played four games here during the regular season. They played 30 games here in the summer league, and nobody changes it. East Carolina played here two years ago in the NCAA Regionals…so there was not a problem then. Then all of the sudden VCU [has] a left-handed pitcher, there’s a problem.”


Elliott Avent, the coach of the host Wolfpack, mainly deferred to the rules committee.


A rules committee official was not made available for comment.


Rams coach Paul Keyes had plenty to say about it.


“I’m very disappointed and hopefully, there will be some reprimands somewhere along the way,” Keyes said.




State got a big lift from third baseman Jeremy Dutton, who started his first game since slightly pulling a hamstring in an ACC Tournament win over North Carolina.


Dutton doubled in the first and scored on an error at short by VCU’s Paul Swack with two outs. He later doubled again.


“He kind of signifies what our team stands for,” Avent said. “A lot of heart, a lot of guts.”




The Wolfpack win over the Rams also featured one of the more weird plays of the tourney so far.


With men on first and second and two outs, Jeff Parrish grounded to second, where Adam Hargrave was eaten up by the grounder. He fired wildly midway between home and first. The Rams’ Danny Lopaze rounded third but froze as State pitcher Vern Sterry sprinted to the backstop to chase the ball down.


“That was a tough read on his part,” Keyes said of Lopaze, who could have scored to make it 4-1.


Making it tough was Sterry.


“Vern Sterry busted his butt to get that ball,” Avent said.




VCU catcher Jeff Parrish entered the interview room after the loss to Western Carolina and asked a quick question.


“What is it, 1 o’clock?” said a visibly drained Parrish, who caught both Rams games Saturday.


He hit two homers and accounted for all of VCU’s runs in the 4-3 loss to State.


“I think State threw their best guy at us, and we put a lot of energy into that game, and we lost that tough there in the 10th,” Parrish said. “Then Western’s kid came back and mixed it up on us again and threw a great ballgame.”




VCU had won 12 straight and 20 of 21 before losing to the Wolfpack and the Catamounts.


“To lose 4-3 and 2-0, that tells you we’re still playing well,” Keyes said. “We just couldn’t get the runs across today.”




Le Moyne was called for three balks in Friday night’s loss to North Carolina State.


Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Dolphins were called for four more balks on Saturday in their season-ending loss. The last resulted in the ejection of Le Moyne coach Steve Owens, who got into a heated argument with Scot Cline.


“No comment,” Owens said after the game about the balks.


Andy Weimer, who relieved and was called for two of the balks, said a different umpire might have seen the balks another way.


“I don’t think I did anything different out of the ordinary,” said Weimer, who balked in a run before his first pitch in the fifth inning. “It was a big call. I can’t necessarily say it changed the way the game was going to go.”




Quick stat: The Dolphins had seven balks in two games and 11 hits.




Dolphins right-fielder Jeff Justice left an impression on many in Wilson.


He had several fine catches, including one against N.C. State on Friday where he ran a long way toward the line, caught the ball and crashed into the wall.


But his catch to rob WCU’s Denver Edick Saturday was probably his best. Justice raced toward the line and took a fully-extended dive to snag the slicing fly ball off the grass blades.          




Le Moyne was making its first appearance in the NCAA postseason since 1989 after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. It was a sweet season in that the Dolphins finally got past Marist, which had represented the league for three straight seasons.


“We’ve been battling them for so many years now, to finally beat them in the MAAC championship was a great accomplishment for us,” said Kyle Brown, who homered Saturday. “We were hoping to do the same here…it didn’t come out the way we wanted it.”


Added Owens: “For us to get here, we had a good collection of players. Their hard work finally paid off.”




The rain started just after 10 a.m., forcing the grounds crew at Fleming Stadium to put the tarp on nearly an hour before the start of the Le Moyne-Western Carolina elimination game.


During that hour and a half rain delay, the Dolphins and Catamounts used the time to have a little fun. Several wannabe pitchers worked on their breaking pitches and knuckle balls to pass the time.


A group of Dolphins played a make-believe game.


Left fielder Eddie Harper was on the “mound” in front of the third-base dugout and was getting his signs from right fielder Jeff Justice behind the “plate,” which umpire Sam Parkins, an infielder, drew in the dirt. The hitter was lefty pitcher Shane Burke. At one point, Parkins had to warn Harper for throwing at Burke, prompting Justice to get in his grill in an argument.


The Dolphins took infield just after 12 for a proposed first pitch around 12:30, while the Catamounts didn’t bother. Right after the national anthem, a big batch of thunderstorms prompted the grounds crew to take action again.


While the PA blared “rain-themed” songs, it seemed appropriate that waves of rain crashed on the field during the beach-classic “Wipeout.”


After a rain delay of 2:34, baseball was played.




The Catamounts have seen rainy days before in their NCAA history.


According to Steve White, who served as Western Carolina’s sports information director from 1969-98 and still broadcasts the games on radio, the Catamounts had to deal with a big batch of thunderstorms in 1986 when the first day of the Miami regional was rained out.


In 1989 in Starkville, Miss., White said the regional went through 12 rain delays in four days.


And in 1994 at Knoxville, Tenn., Jason Beverlin was shutting down Arizona State and led 3-0 as the game entered the middle innings. The rains game, and Beverlin couldn’t come back the next day. ASU won the game 8-6.