It was almost impossible to hear Jimmy Kerrigan on the other end of the phone. The VCU team bus, bound for the Richmond Airport, was brimming with excitement. In a few hours they would be flying to Miami to take on the Hurricanes in the NCAA Baseball Super Regionals.
Unfortunately, VCU’s run in the tournament was short-lived. They lost Game 1, 3-2, to top seed Miami on Friday and Game 2, 10-3, on Saturday.
The cheering, yelling and screaming last week was in sharp contrast to the stunned silence and sobbing all around Kerrigan a year and a half ago.
On Dec. 6, 2013, the student-athletes of seven Temple University teams were called into the school’s indoor football practice facility by athletic director Kevin Clark.
“With the rising cost of doing business it has become impossible for (our athletic department) mission to be accomplished with the 24 sports (programs) that we have,” Clark said as the eyes of those gathered began to tear up. “I made a recommendation that was approved by the president and the board of trustees to eliminate seven sports effective July 1, 2014.”
Baseball was the first team Clark mentioned.
“We were all really shocked,” said Kerrigan, who was the starting center fielder for the Owls. “I never thought of (the baseball program) being on the fritz. It never crossed my mind. I don’t think it crossed anybody’s mind.”
In addition to baseball, softball, men’s and women’s rowing, men’s gymnastics, men’s indoor track and field and men’s outdoor track and field were also cut.
Kerrigan was from Philadelphia. He was a hometown kid who was only recruited by and offered a baseball scholarship from his hometown school, Temple. In an instant Kerrigan, along with hundreds of others students-athletes, were without a place to get an education and participate in athletics.
“I sent emails to a whole bunch of schools,” Kerrigan said, hoping to a find a spot anywhere on a Division I roster.
Kerrigan admitted that he never heard of VCU before attending Temple. Perhaps it was his hitting prowess against the Rams that impressed VCU head coach Shawn Stiffler and the rest of the coaching staff.
Temple and VCU squared off the last two years and Kerrigan knocked the cover off the ball against the Rams. In the first game of a three-game series his freshman year, Kerrigan went 3-for-4 and scored a run. His hot hitting continued. In six games over two seasons, Kerrigan hit .476 in 21 plate appearances against VCU while scoring six runs.
“They reached out to me,” Kerrigan said. “I came to a couple of practices and they offered me a scholarship.”
Kerrigan comes into Friday’s Super Regional batting .290 in 145 plate appearances. Just like he did against VCU when at Temple, Kerrigan is hitting the cover off the ball of late. In the four regional games, he went 5-for-12 at the plate. Remarkably, four of Kerrigan’s five hits were doubles.
“We practice a lot of busting out of the batter’s box pretty hard and making a good turn (at first base) to cut the angle off to possibly get another base especially if (the outfielders) get lazy getting the ball in.”
This was VCU’s first appearance in the baseball Super Regionals.
Above: VCU’s Jimmy Kerrigan has kept up a torrid pace at the plate despite having to switch schools after Temple dropped baseball. (Courtesy VCU Athletics)