GW baseball team clinches A-10 West

In the course of a season, some wins are more important than others.

For the GW baseball team, two victories Saturday against Atlantic 10 rival Xavier at Barcroft Park were its most important wins of the season. The sweep of the doubleheader – behind complete games by junior Ari Zagaris and freshman Adam Belicic – clinched the A-10 West Division title for GW and assured the team a number one seed in the conference tournament May 7-10.

GW also won the series’ final game Sunday to complete a sweep of the Musketeers (24-24, 7-8 A-10).

The Colonials are headed back to the double-elimination A-10 Tournament, which features the top two teams from each division, for the first time since 1995.

“Getting the first seed is important when you get to play somebody like Fordham rather than UMass,” GW head coach Tom Walter said. “It gives you a better chance of winning a few games.”

HugoEntering this weekend, UMass (11-1) had already clinched the East Division ahead of three teams – Fordham, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure – hovering at 6-6.

The postseason could also include a trip to the NCAA Regionals for GW. If the Colonials win the A-10 Tournament and a play-in with the champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Colonials would make their first appearance at regionals since 1992.

“Obviously the team’s goal every year is to make a regional and see what happens,” Walter said. “So it’s obviously in the back of everybody’s mind, but we still have to take care of business at Boyertown (the site of the A-10 Tournament).”

Saturday’s victories were also the 30th and 31st of the season for the Colonials (32-14, 13-2 A-10), which broke the old school record for wins in a season (30).

“Coming from where we were last year, with 21 wins all season, clinching the division this season is great,” Zagaris said.

GW 4, Xavier 3GW completed a three-game sweep of Xavier Sunday behind timely hitting, and strong pitching by junior Tom Baginski.

GW led 3-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, when freshman Dan Rouhier hit a solo home run deep into centerfield to extend the Colonials’ lead to 4-2. The insurance run proved to be important because Xavier’s Rodd Hampson scored in the top of the ninth inning to close the gap to 4-3, which was the game’s final score.

Baginski was solid on the mound for GW as he started and went seven and two-thirds innings to earn the win and improve to 6-3 on the season. The lefthander struck out 10 batters and walked none to win his fourth-straight decision.

“The team wanted to come out and play hard and win for Tom Baginski because (we think) he is the best pitcher in the conference,” Rouhier said.

Freshman Bryan Beggs earned his second save for the Colonials by pitching the final one and one-third innings, while Lou Witte (6-5) took the loss in going the distance for the Musketeers.

GW got on the scoreboard in the third inning on an RBI-single by Rob Ingwer, which scored Tony Brown from third base to give GW a 1-0 lead.

Neither team scored again until the sixth inning. Senior Cassedy Smith nailed a base hit to left field, which scored Ingwer and Ryan Dacey to increase GW’s lead to 3-0.

The Musketeers scored twice in the top of the eighth inning to move to within a run at 3-2. Xavier got to Baginski and Beggs for four hits in plating their first two runs of the game. Xavier would never come any closer as Rouhier hit his third home run of the season in the bottom of the inning.

“Cassedy Smith’s and Dan Rouhier’s hits were really key because those hits kept us in the lead,” GW Coach Tom Walter said.

GW 3, Xavier 1GW lefthander Adam Belicic threw a three-hit complete game to complete a sweep of Saturday’s twinbill and clinch the A-10 West Division title for the Colonials.

After giving up a run and two hits in the first inning, Belicic gave up just one more hit over six innings to lead GW to the victory.

“Pitching has been carrying us all year,” Walter said. “If you give up two runs in an entire doubleheader, you’re probably not going to lose.”

Belicic, who has been one of the most consistent hurlers for the Colonial staff, improved his team-leading record to 7-1 and pitched his fourth complete game of the season. He also lowered his earned run average, which stood at 2.83 before the game.

“I was just trying to pitch strikes and let the fielders do the rest,” Belicic said of GW’s defense, which did not commit an error Saturday. “They did a great job of backing me up.”

GW trailed 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning when sophomore shortstop Ryan Dacey, who went 2-for-2 in the game, led off the inning with a base hit. A ground out by Joe Beichert moved Dacey to second, and senior Cassedy Smith tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI-single. After Smith was caught trying to steal, Chris Matarese then smacked a solo home run to dead centerfield off Xavier starter Jeff Barger (3-3) to give GW the lead for good.

The Colonials added an insurance run in the third inning when an RBI-single by lead-off hitter Mike Roberts scored Tony Brown from second base.

Meanwhile, Belicic cruised through the late innings, putting the Musketeers down in order three times in the game.

“I always come into a game feeling like I am going to shut down the other team,” Belicic said.

Xavier mounted its only offensive effort of the game in the first inning when Mike Scuglik and Matt Watson reached on a walk and a single to put two men on base with one out. GW recorded the second out of the inning, but Xavier rightfielder Bill Fish lined a single to centerfield to give the Musketeers the early lead.

“We didn’t expect to come in here and sweep these guys (in the doubleheader),” Walter said. “They’re a good team and they proved that by how hard they played today.”

GW 10, Xavier 1GW starter Ari Zagaris pitched a five-hit complete game, and the Colonials scored in every inning but the fifth to win the first game in the three-game series.

Once again trailing 1-0 after the first inning, the Colonials took control of the game in the bottom half of the first inning. Junior Mike Roberts led off the game with a home run to tie the game. Third baseman Rob Ingwer walked, and Ryan Dacey blasted GW’s second home run of the inning to give GW a 3-1 lead it would never lose.

“The hitters really picked me up,” Zagaris said. “I didn’t have to worry about being too fine with my pitches. When you get a good cushion, you basically just try to stay around the plate and let your defense do the work.”

GW continued piling runs on throughout the game. Mike Roberts, who went 3-for-4, knocked in his second run of the game with a single in the second inning, while Dan Rouhier recorded his first of three RBIs in the game with a double in the third.

“I felt pretty good after three or four innings, and with the offense doing well, I knew we were going to roll,” Zagaris said.

The Colonials put the game away in the bottom of the fifth. Back-to-back singles by freshmen Eric Mitchell and Tony Brown plated two more runs, and an error by Xavier third baseman Rodd Hampson allowed Brown to score and pushed GW’s lead to 8-1.

Zagaris improved to 5-2 on the year in recording his third complete game of the season.

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