Temperatures were in the high 40s when junior starter Eric Cantrell threw his first pitch against Duquesne Sunday afternoon, with overcast skies and a light drizzle that made the already chilly temperature seem even colder. If the cold weather bothered him at all, Cantrell didn’t show it. He wore short sleeves as he cruised through seven innings to earn the win and help the Colonials complete their season-opening sweep of the Dukes with a 6-1 victory.
“Today Eric gave us exactly what we needed,” GW head coach Steve Mrowka said of Cantrell’s two-hit, seven-strikeout performance. “He came out like a number-one starter and really shut them down and gave us an opportunity to get a little bit of a lead, increase the lead and kept us in there.”
Cantrell, whose win Sunday was his third of the season, was dominant early, not allowing a Duquesne base runner until the third inning when he walked Duquesne shortstop Joe Lombardo on four pitches.
One batter earlier, Cantrell narrowly avoided being hit by a sharply hit grounder off the bat of Duquese’s Chris Happ. The junior starter managed to field the ball and get the out at first base, but Cantrell said that the near-miss might have broken his concentration just long enough to give up the walk.
“I have no idea how I caught that,” Cantrell said. “Sometimes that stuff just happens and you lose it for an at-bat or two.”
Cantrell kept the Dukes out of the hit column for another two innings before Duquesne second baseman Mike Ganley singled in the fifth inning. That frame proved to be the toughest for Cantrell, who hit a batter, gave up a walk, threw a wild pitch, and surrendered Duquesne’s only run all in the fifth frame.
Despite the temporary struggles, Cantrell was pleased with his control Sunday, calling it the best he’s had all season.
Beyond Cantrell’s strong performance, the Colonials’ offense was solid for a third straight game, putting up a pair of runs in both the first and second innings to give the starter some early breathing room. Senior Tom Zebroski had three hits and two RBIs for GW Sunday, including a solo home run in the seventh that punctuated the Colonials’ dominant day.
The win marked the completion of the Colonials’ third series sweep of the year and a strong 3-0 start to Atlantic 10 play after an up-and-down nonconference schedule left the team one game under .500.
Mrowka said getting off to a strong start in A-10 play was a priority for his team.
“Once the conference starts, it’s time to really start playing good, quality baseball and you definitely want to begin your conference season on a positive, so coming in here and trying to win the series is our number-one goal,” Mrowka said. “Once we took the two yesterday, obviously today you pick up another W; that’s like added gravy.”
Cantrell echoed his coach’s sentiment, adding that series sweeps were especially sweet.
“It’s huge,” Cantrell said. “In my two years here we might have had two sweeps total, so this is huge getting off to a good start in conference. We’re going to build off this and go get St. Bonnie’s next weekend.”
The Colonials return to the field this Tuesday with a home date against William and Mary and a road game Wednesday at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. Tuesday’s first pitch is set for 3 p.m. at Barcroft Park in Arlington, Va.