The GW baseball team is anxious to finally play ball this weekend. In its first series of the season, the Colonials take on host University of North Carolina-Wilmington in a doubleheader Saturday and finish up the three-game season opener with an afternoon match Sunday.
The Colonial will have their work cut out for them against a strong and prepared UNC-Wilmington team, but GW head coach Tom Walter’s team is anxious to set the tone for what should be a stellar season. GW was picked to win the Atlantic 10 West Division this season according to Collegiate Baseball Magazine.
GW’s approach to its opener has been different from a UNC-Wilmington team that Walter described as probably “one of the two best teams we play all year.”
UNC-Wilmington is a quick team that relies on the hit and run, a style that differs from GW’s focus on strength and power, Walter said. In addition to its talent, UNC-Wilmington has a warm-weather advantage, he said. While GW hitters have practiced batting against machines in cages and worked on fielding on gym floors, UNC-Wilmington has had the luxury of having five or six games under its belt plus practice time outdoors, Walter said.
It might take a little while for GW hitters to adjust and find their rhythm and Walter said his team will have to find other ways to get on base and get runs scored
“Our hitters will be behind,” Walter said. “Hitting is timing and if you haven’t seen a live pitch, you’re going to struggle.”
This means GW might do more bunting, working the count, stealing and playing strong situational baseball, something that goes against Walter’s style.
“I’ve never been much of a bunt-and-run type of guy,” Walter said. “We’ve always had pretty good offensive clubs here so we rely on swinging the bat.
While the task might not be an easy one, Walter and his team said they are confident in their ability to win this weekend with the help of their pitching staff
“The only way to combat anything is with good pitching,” Walter said.
Sophomore Greg Conden, who was picked to be the A-10 Pitcher of the Year Collegiate Baseball Magazine will make his first start Sunday afternoon. GW’s Chris Worth will get the starting nod in Saturday’s opener with fellow junior Jason Baker getting the start in game two.
“It all starts on the mound,” Walter said. “If you don’t pitch well it doesn’t matter what you do.”
UNC-Wilmington’s rotation is unknown for now, but senior Dan Rouhier said the Colonials have to keep their focus.
“It doesn’t matter who they throw at us,” Rouhier said. “We still have a job to do.”
While they may not be up to full speed offensively, the Colonials’ packed lineup will pose a threat to UNC-Wilmington.
“If you look up and down our roster compared to other rosters, we’re a pretty strong team and there aren’t going to be many other teams that are bigger in size than we are,” Walter said.
Seven batting spots are set with the second and eighth spots still up for grabs. Junior Travis Crowder (.286 batting average last season, 12 stolen bases) will lead off with Matt Krimmel (.342) batting third. Mike Bassett (.340, 15 home runs) will bat clean up with Rouhier fifth (.343, 73 hits). Senior-transfer Ross Smirne (catcher, Cleveland State University) and freshman Jeff Fertitta will hit sixth and seventh, respectively, with Jake Wald batting ninth.
“Everyone wants to get off to a good start and build a confidence level,” Rouhier said. “We beat them three times and people start talking about us.”
With an A-10 championship and an NCAA Tournament berth both realistic possibilities for Walter’s talented team, the journey now begins for GW.
“Our goal this season is to win 40 games,” Walter said. “It’s harder to get there if you start off 0-3.”