Explorers discover late-season sweep

The GW baseball team had a chance to solidify its hold on second place in the Atlantic 10’s West Division when it played third-place La Salle this weekend.

Instead, the Colonials ended up digging a hole for themselves as the Explorers swept a three-game series at Barcroft Park.

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GW (22-23, 8-7 A-10) entered the weekend just one game behind division-leading Virginia Tech. But with its sweep, La Salle (20-18, 8-4 A-10) moved into second place. The Colonials must finish in second place to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Championship at the end of the season.

“We have to hope someone beats La Salle somewhere down the line, and we have to take care of business,” GW head coach Tom Walter said. “It puts our backs against the wall.”

La Salle 7, GW 6

GW looked to take back a game from La Salle at Barcroft Field Sunday, but lost again. The Colonials led after eight innings but squandered the lead in the top of the ninth.

Senior Tom Baginski pitched eight strong innings for the Colonials, holding La Salle to four runs and scattering nine hits.

By the top of the ninth, with the Colonials leading 6-4, it was clear Baginski was tiring as the Explorers continually hit his pitches hard. Baginski’s fastballs and curves turned into juicy melons, and La Salle ate them up.

Baginski started the top of the ninth inning by getting an out, with the help of a great catch by shortstop Ryan Dacey. But the next batter, La Salle’s Mark Duffy, smacked a double off the top of the wall in deep center field. With a runner on second, Tim Slater hit a ball right back through the middle, scoring Duffy, and advancing to second on an error.

Ari Zagaris (3-6) relieved Baginski and immediately got the second out on a dribbler back to the mound, jamming the La Salle batter with his side-arm delivery. But Zagaris then walked La Salle’s Kevin Wittmeyer and threw a wild pitch during Jon Palumbo’s at bat. With runners on second and third and two outs, Palumbo connected with Zagaris’ pitch, sending it down the third-base line. Ted Currle, the Colonials’ third baseman, dove for the ball, but it was just beyond his reach. Slater and Wittmeyer both scored on the double, putting the Explorers ahead 7-6.

GW couldn’t come back in the bottom of the ninth. La Salle’s 6-8 Ted Grandstaff towered over the mound and dominated the Colonials through the last four innings of the game to earn the victory for the Explorers.

La Salle 7, GW 6

It looked like the Colonials might cruise to an easy win at the start of Saturday’s second game, taking a 4-0 lead after two innings.

But GW didn’t have an answer for La Salle’s five-run explosion in the fourth inning that gave the Explorers the lead for good.

Before the fourth inning, GW starter Bryan Beggs had surrendered no runs on just two hits. GW’s defense was just as good early on, as second baseman Mike Roberts and third baseman Matt Krimmel both made diving plays on groundballs for two outs in the third inning.

But both pitching and defense let GW down in the fourth. A Krimmel error allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base, and a textbook bunt down the third-base line by La Salle’s Kevin Ibach put runners on first and second. The next batter, Mark Duffy, hit Beggs’ offering over the right-field fence.

Beggs (4-2) then loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a single before designated hitter Toby Fisher slapped a single to left to score two more runs and give the Explorers a 5-4 lead.

La Salle added to its lead in the fifth. Krimmel missed another grounder that would have been the third out of the inning. Beggs then walked the next batters and gave up a two-run double to the ninth-place hitter, Jon Palumbo.

The Colonials bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Roberts led off the inning with a home run, and Ryan Dacey scored on an error by La Salle centerfielder Charlie Angeline, who let freshman Mike Bassett’s single get through him. But GW wouldn’t score during the final two innings, with its last out coming on a blast by Bassett that was caught on the warning track.

“We haven’t gotten any clutch hits really all year,” Walter said. “In tight ballgames, what makes the difference is clutch situations and defense.”

Eric Mitchell led the Colonial offense with two hits, including a three-run homer in the second inning. Mike Roberts homered and singled for GW, while Rob Ingwer added two hits.

La Salle 11, GW 4

La Salle put the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader out of reach early, scoring six runs with two outs in the third inning.

GW starter Adam Belicic (6-5) was uncharacteristically wild and hitable in his three innings on the mound. Normally the stalwart of the Colonial pitching staff, Belicic surrendered eight earned runs and six walks. Coming into the series, he was among the A-10’s leaders in both wins and earned run average.

“Adam’s elbow has been bothering him,” Walter said. “And that worries me a little bit because he’s been one of our go-to guys.”

Belicic has an MRI scheduled for Tuesday.

The Explorers got to Belicic early when Mark Duffy hit a two-run home run in the second inning, but the real damage came in the third. Two La Salle runners got on base with one out before Belicic got the second out on a line drive to center field. But the next seven batters reached base either by a hit or a walk as La Salle scored six runs to take an 8-0 lead before Belicic could register the final out.

Ted Currle’s home run in the bottom of the third inning was one of the few bright spots on offense for GW. Catcher Eric Mitchell had two hits in the loss, the only Colonial with a multi-hit game.

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