When the first pitch of GW’s game against Massachusetts whizzed to home plate, it ushered in the Colonials’ last game of the season and their final competition with head coach Steve Mrowka sitting in the dugout.
The athletics department issued a press release announcing Mrowka’s dismissal at 4 p.m. Saturday, shortly after wrapping up a frustrating season with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Minutemen that cemented GW’s last-place finish in the league.
“We want to thank Steve for his eight seasons as coach of our baseball program,” athletic director Patrick Nero said in the release. “He was always a model of professionalism.”
Mrowka did not return a request for comment. The athletics department declined to provide a previously requested interview with the former head coach or players on the team following the announcement, citing “unforeseen circumstances.”
GW has not qualified for postseason play since the 2005 season – Mrowka’s first year as head coach. In the 2006 season, the Colonials did not reach the A-10 tournament for the first time in five years, snapping a streak that included clinching the league title in 2002 under Mrowka’s predecessor Tom Walter, the winningest coach in program history.
The program’s slide was likely a factor behind Mrowka’s dismissal, in line with previous staffing decisions under Nero, who has been outspoken about his expectations for success across the University’s athletics programs.
Mrowka’s dismissal is the latest in a chain of departures in Nero’s first year as athletic director. Of 22 programs, eight head coaches were either recently hired or just completed their first season with their respective programs.
A search for a new head coach will begin “immediately,” according to the release.
Mrowka was hired as Walter’s replacement in August 2004, after 11 years as head coach at Georgia College & State University, an NCAA Division II program. While with the Colonials, Mrowka posted a 202-245 (.452) record over eight seasons, including a 95-109 (.466) mark in Atlantic 10 play.
The former baseball head coach’s final series with his team was one where the Colonials’ opponents proved the mightier contenders in all facets of the game, dominating from both the mound and the batter’s box.
GW’s struggles at the plate traced an unwelcome pattern for the team over its past few seasons, many times failing to answer opponents who scored runs in bunches, defeated by increasingly large margins. The Colonials saw their play take on an up-and-down, streaky pattern, unable to consistently string together victories.
This year, a struggling GW team traveled Thursday to the Bay State hoping to round out its regular season with some success, but Massachusetts’ powerful overall showing led to an easy sweep of the Colonials, who fell short 10-3, 6-3 and 11-1, respectively.
The Colonials were felled by many of the same woes in the first game of the series, that they would continue to grapple with in the second and third games. An early Massachusetts lead combined with inefficiency on the mound and almost no run support for GW’s pitchers doomed the Colonials from the start.
Though senior Stephen Oswald blasted a three-run homer in the sixth, it was the only offensive flare of the game for GW. For Massachusetts, runs came in bunches. Scoring four runs in third and then again in the sixth, the Minutemen cruised to an easy victory.
The Colonials’ inability to quell the Massachusetts bats carried over to the second game of the series, during which the Minutemen scored runs in five different frames. Though Oswald continued his hot streak with three hits, three RBIs and another home run, run production did not make its way through the rest of GW’s lineup. Despite allowing just three earned runs in six innings of work, junior Justin Albright was tagged with the loss.
The final duel of the three-game series in Amherst ended up much like the previous two, with Massachusetts scoring runs early and often as the Colonials’ offense struggled to get numbers on the scoreboard. The Minutemen jumped out to a quick 1-0 in their first trip to the plate and after five innings, Massachusetts had compiled seven runs in total.
Perhaps a symbol of the GW’s yearlong inability to bring runners to the plate, the Colonials mustered only one run against Massachusetts in the third game, via three singles in the top of the sixth. Overall, the Colonials were outscored 27-7 in the series, a statistic that epitomizes GW’s losing season.
The team only needs to look at its roster to be reminded of the changes to come – the Colonials are left without leadership and with eight player openings due to graduation, including starters Jimmy Best, Ollie Mittag, Brett Bowers and Oswald.
This article was updated May 21, 2012 to reflect the following:
Due to a reporting error, The Hatchet reported that 13 varsity coaches had either been recently hired or just completed their first year with the program. That number is eight.