Athletics: VCU wins automatic berth in NCAA tournament

With his team in a slump and in danger of not making the Atlantic 10 tournament three weeks ago, VCU coach Shawn Stiffler was looking for something to spark his team.

So he made a few lineup changes. One involved moving freshman Daane Berezo and his high on-base percentage to the second spot and dropping junior James Bunn to eighth.

VCU now is on an 11-game winning streak and headed to the NCAA tournament. And Bunn turned out to be the right man in the right spot in Saturday’s A-10 championship game.

Bunn delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth as the fifth-seeded Rams took advantage of a two-base error on a routine fly and pushed across two runs. Bunn helped finish it in style with the first of two diving catches in the ninth to claim a 5-3 victory over Rhode Island, their first A-10 baseball championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

VCU (37-22) will make its first NCAA appearance since 2010 and its 11th overall. The pairings for the 16 regional sites will be announced Monday at noon on ESPNU. The four-team regionals begin Friday and run through Sunday.

“Wow. Just a super exhilarating feeling,” said third baseman Darian Carpenter, who had a two-run triple that put VCU ahead 3-1 and was named the most outstanding player. “To see where we were and the odds we were facing, to just block it out and know we’re good enough to do what we wanted to do to get to our goal, it’s breath-taking. It’s amazing.

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