Time and time again Wednesday afternoon, a GW batter stepped up to the plate with the chance to drive in the winning run. After allowing George Mason to tie the game in the top of the seventh inning, the Colonials managed to move the go-ahead run into scoring position in five of the remaining six innings and loaded the bases twice.
But time and time again late in GW’s 12-inning, 8-5 loss to George Mason, the Colonials walked away from the plate empty handed, their at-bats punctuated with thrown helmets and expletives instead of high-fives at first base.
“You get an opportunity in the bottom of any inning to win the game, you gotta try to end it. You’re not shutting somebody out forever,” head coach Steve Mrowka said. “We had opportunities to score some runs, we had guys up there that could hit, pretty good hitters, and came up empty.”
In the eighth inning it was junior catcher Ryan Thomas and senior Brendon Kelliher, the Colonials’ leader in hits and home runs this season, who struck out in back-to-back at-bats with the bases loaded. In the ninth, it was junior second baseman Ollie Mittag with runners on first and second, and in the 11th it was pitcher Tyler McCarthy who popped up with the go-ahead run on second base.
All together, GW stranded 16 runners Wednesday and fell for the second-straight day to George Mason after the Patriots handed the Colonials a 15-8 defeat Tuesday in Fairfax, Va. To make matters worse, GW’s struggles at the plate wasted a relatively strong effort from the Colonials pitching staff, especially McCarthy, who came on in the seventh and threw five shutout innings before surrendering four Patriot runs in the top of the 12th.
“We had two bad innings, the three-run inning and then that inning there, the four-run inning,” Mrowka said. “I think our whole staff did pretty good today. You know, eight runs isn’t great but over 12 innings, it’s better than what we’ve been doing.”
McCarthy, who came on in relief of freshman reliver Aaron Weisberg, struck out three and surrendered just two hits in his five and two-thirds innings of work. His experience as an outfielder, the position he plays when he isn’t on the mound for GW, and as a hitter, made him more understanding of his team’s struggles at the plate.
“I think it’s a little easier for me, because I know what they’re going through as well,” McCarthy said. “They’re obviously trying to do everything that they’re supposed to be doing, advancing the guys and everything. I know exactly what we’re trying to do, but I know the difficulty of executing it sometimes.”
The loss was the ninth-straight non-conference loss for GW this season and left the Colonials on a two-game skid as they enter their weekend off from A-10 play. Just like during the late innings Wednesday, frustration has mounted for the Colonials over the course of the season. With a .500 record in conference play, GW is far from the bottom of the A-10, but the Colonials have struggled to win with any consistency this season, and the tough stretches have taken their toll on the team.
“They were getting frustrated because they were competing, and that’s what we want to do,” Mrowka said. “It’s been a tough season. We’re not winning as much as we’re losing. It’s not fun. The guys are really trying to regroup, focus up.”
Although they won’t be taking on A-10 competition again until April 15, the Colonials won’t be taking the weekend off. Instead, GW will play Saturday and Sunday against Canisius, an opportunity, Mrowka said, for the team to gain some positive momentum and for the players to regain some confidence.
“It’s our bye weekend and we’re still trying to get better, so if we can make adjustments and improve and figure out what our lineup should be, then it’s good that we have a bye weekend,” Mrowka said. “Canisius is a good ball club and hopefully we can go out and pick up a couple wins, get some momentum and get some positive focus.”