Just minutes before the first pitch of game one against Davidson, new head coach Gregg Ritchie took a moment to relive how chance brought him back to GW to manage the team he starred on as a player 30 years earlier.
Standing quietly beside the Colonials’ (0-2) bullpen, watching junior pitcher Luke Staub prepare for his own debut, Ritchie shot a look at friend and associate head coach Tom Sheridan, who turned with a smirk and said, “Here we go.”
GW’s players were already lined up along the chalk as Ritchie walked past them to hand in the lineup card at home plate. With each step down the line and toward the umpire, Ritchie said he recalled the names of all the coaches who helped mold his career.
“I thought, ‘I have to be like those guys. I have to lead players like those guys led players,’ ” Ritchie said. “It’s a pretty neat thing to be able to say I get to lead these men, these young people.”
Finally handing in the card, Ritchie ushered in a new era for GW baseball, for a program with not only a revamped stadium, but also renewed hopes of qualifying for the A-10 tournament this year, after failing to do so in each of the last seven seasons.
But both Davidson – and Mother Nature – had plans of their own this weekend in the Tar Heel state. After dizzying snowfall cut Saturday’s game short and resulting field conditions rendered a Sunday game impossible, the Colonials emerged from their series against Davidson with nothing more than two non-conference blemishes on their nascent 2013 bid. The Wildcats beat GW 7-5 on Friday and 6-5 on Saturday, when weather ended the contest after six innings.
Staub led the Colonials’ charge for much of the way during Ritchie’s debut Friday, turning in five and two thirds innings of work while giving up one unearned run on six hits. After allowing one run in the first frame, GW held the Wildcats’ bats silent until bullpen trouble set up a Davidson grand slam in the bottom of the seventh.
Down 7-3 heading into the top of the ninth, the Colonials needed some big hits to get them out of the hole. Sophomore catcher and outfielder Xavier Parkmond led things off with a walk, and then scored when senior outfielder and pitcher Tyler McCarthy smacked a long ball over the left field wall to put GW back within two. But the rally would end there.
“We really have to shore up our bullpen,” Ritchie said. “You really want to get each guy to understand what he is capable of so that each one can be used in the way he’s best suited for.”
On Saturday, the Colonials battled back against the Wildcats, grabbing a 2-0 lead before Davidson scored three of its own in the bottom half of the fourth. After allowing three more runs, GW was again in a position to mount a comeback in the top of the seventh. With one out, McCarthy drilled a double and later scored on a single from junior infielder Brookes Townsend. Senior outfielder Ryan Hickey kept the streak alive with an RBI base knock of his own, eventually scoring on consecutive wild pitches to bring the Colonials within a single run.
With two outs and a man on first for GW, strong winds and snowfall rolled in, blanketing Wilson Field in white within minutes and forcing both teams to return to their dugouts. Per NCAA rules, the score of the game at the time of the postponement became official, allowing Davidson to take a one-run victory in the face of another late Colonials rally.
Though disappointed that the snow prohibited his team from capitalizing on its momentum at the end of game two and even into game three, Ritchie said he was proud of how his team battled throughout the weekend.
“They played clean, solid, good baseball both days,” Ritchie said. “I can tell you how this team is going to play. They’re going to play tenacious. They’re gonna play hard and learn how to finish.”
It was also the first Division I career starts for Staub and freshman Max Kaplow, who took the mound Saturday. Their debut performances were a heartening aspect of the weekend for a Colonial team looking to redefine itself, Ritchie said.
“We really couldn’t have asked for more out of them,” Ritchie said. “For those guys to perform at the D-1 level for the first time like that, that’s a major positive for us right now.