In the final three-game series of its 10-game home stand, GW (17-28, 3-12) was swept for the second straight time in A-10 play, this time by Charlotte.
It was not just run production that hindered the Colonials in the conference series – it was the team’s inability to stick to strong fundamentals of play.
The 49ers started a trend in the series opener that would reappear in every game, jumping on the Colonials’ starting pitchers and getting out to an early lead. They scored four runs in the first inning before coasting their way to a 9-5 victory.
In Saturday’s game, Charlotte pushed across three runs in the opening frame and held off the Colonials for an 8-2 win. And in the series finale Sunday, the 49ers handed GW one of its worst defeats of the season, 15-3.
“Our starting pitching has done a pretty good job, and we’ve been in most of the games,” head coach Steve Mrowka said. “They’ve done a good job most of the year, and this weekend, our starters just came out of the gates throwing balls, putting base runners on early.”
Junior starting pitcher Brian Derner could not find his way out of the first inning in Friday’s game, recording no outs and giving up four runs on no hits, five walks and four errors. It was not characteristic of Derner’s play, but it set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Charlotte never gave up the lead, and in the bottom of the ninth, the Colonials attempted a small rally to make the score 9-5, but would go no further.
The second game of the series was more of the same, with sophomore Aaron Weisberg allowing three runs in the first inning. Weisberg went on to pitch seven innings, giving up six earned runs on ten hits, with four walks and two strikeouts.
Though the Colonials finished strong in relief, Charlotte defeated GW 8-2.
“When we’ve been going good, we get on the board early,” Mrowka said. “We hold them down, and we hang in there and we’re tough to beat late in the game. But we gave up a ton of runs early, and baseball teams will tell you, whomever scores first usually wins no matter what.”
Heading into Sunday’s finale, Mrowka decided to rotate through his bullpen, having multiple pitchers throw only one to two innings. But the strategy fell short as the 49ers exploded for their highest tally over the weekend.
Starting on the mound for the Colonials was sophomore Craig LeJeune, who allowed run in the first and left the game in the second with two runners on base. Senior Eric Lara came in to relieve LeJeune and gave up a two-run double to make it 3-0.
After allowing another run in the third inning and loading the bases, Lara was relieved by junior Justin Albright. But Albright got the worst of Charlotte’s hot hitting, as the 49ers erupted for a nine-run fourth inning making the score 15-0.
Despite the tally, only six of Charlotte’s runs were earned. But GW’s infield failed to execute on a crucial double play, allowing the 49ers additional scoring opportunities.
“We got a couple of double play balls and we booted them,” Mrowka said. “In the nine-run inning, there was only one run in and we boot another double play ball, and they score that one and capitalize for seven more runs.”
The Colonials scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth thanks to fielder’s choices, and senior Jimmy Best recorded GW’s first hit with a two-out double. GW pushed one more run across in the eighth inning, but the team could not overcome the deficit, failing to hit the ball to the right areas of the field.
“We were hitting the ball hard, just at people,” Best said. “In the second inning, I hit a ball hard up the middle, and they were able to turn it into a double play.”
With 11 games left on the season, GW’s head coach said he wants to see the team return to fundamentals of play to wrap the year strongly. Still, Mrowka and Best said, the Colonials should not be counted out.
“We want to spoil some seasons,” Best said. “So we’re still gonna play hard and try to make the best of it.”