If hitting is contagious, then a fever swept through the Colonials’ lineup Tuesday at Barcroft Park.
After splitting a two-game series with Shepherd University over the weekend, GW (11-17) hosted Towson on Tuesday, with the Colonials looking for their second win against the Tigers after a victory earlier in the season. Led by strong pitching throughout, GW found its stride with an offensive explosion in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Ultimately taking the game 9-1, the Colonials not only picked up their fifth win in the last six games but Steve Mrowka also earned his 600th career win.
“Obviously, it means you have been coaching for a while,” Mrowka, who is in his eighth year at GW, said. “They’re all good wins, and I’m proud of the way the guys played today. I’m happy to do it out here on the new field.”
Aside from one Colonials run in the bottom of the third, the game was in a dead heat almost all the way through. GW’s junior right-hander J.T. Wauford turned in an impressive outing on the mound, pitching seven innings of one-hit work. Able to control his full arsenal of pitches early on, most notably the curve, Wauford kept the Tiger hitters guessing in the batter’s box until his last pitch.
Despite an early threat from Towson in the top of the second, Wauford was able to settle down completely over the next five innings. When he left the mound after the seventh, the Tigers run column still showed zero. Wauford said having the ability to consistently locate multiple pitches was a crucial piece of his success.
“It felt really good to keep them shut down,” Wauford said. “If you have just a fastball and that’s all you’re throwing, they’re eventually going to time it up and hit it. You have to have other pitches to throw, to throw them off and keep them off balance.”
The turning point of the game came in the home half of the seventh. Leading 1-0 and looking for some insurance, GW’s batters erupted with eight runs on eight hits, including four doubles. Senior catcher Jimmy Best, who saw the batter’s box twice in the inning, ripped two doubles of his own, finishing the day with two RBIs and a run scored.
Sophomore outfielder Owen Beightol and senior third baseman Brett Bowers also contributed to the seventh-inning explosion, adding a combined three hits during the frame and finishing with a combined five hits and three RBIs overall.
“Finally the bats came alive,” Mrowka said. “It was a one to nothing game and we couldn’t string anything together for a long time. Then all of a sudden, bam, the hits came in bunches. We hit the ball hard and strung them together.”
With a huge, nine-run cushion heading into the final two innings of play, sophomore pitcher Colin Milon and senior pitcher Luke Mirabella each had a lot of room to work with in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. After Milon pitched a one-two-three eighth, Mirabella came on and finished the job, pitching the final three outs of GW’s eight-run victory.
Though Mrowka was pleased to see yet another solid combined pitching effort on the day, for him it was even more satisfying to watch his team’s hitters add some offensive insurance and give the pitching staff a break.
“It’s just what we needed,” Mrowka said. “We haven’t been scoring a lot of runs. But we know we have a good offense if we can put it all together. Hopefully that gives us a little bit of a boost heading into the big weekend.”
As the Colonials head north this weekend for a three-game stint against conference rival Rhode Island, Mrowka said maintaining that the same offensive presence will be essential for success.
“From on offensive standpoint, we need to relax and keep the confidence,” Mrowka said. “Our guys can hit it, but we just need to go up there and have solid AB’s. We can’t have paralysis by analysis, we can’t go up there and think too much in the batter’s box.”