Though it might not have been a full 180-degree turnaround, the Colonials’ perfect results this weekend could foreshadow that the formerly struggling squad has improved.
But then again, nothing in baseball dominates a game’s storyline better than lights-out pitching.
Over a combined 27 innings of work between Friday and Sunday, GW’s hurlers allowed only two total runs. And in the first 18 of those innings, they didn’t allow a single walk. It was an effort that stood in striking contrast to their performance against the Hoyas last Tuesday, when the Colonials’ pitching allowed 10 runs in one game alone.
After going down easily against Georgetown, GW (7-15, 3-0) rolled into its first Atlantic 10 stint this weekend with sights on taking down conference foe Massachusetts. Heavy snowfall in the Northeast forced the Minutemen to Barcroft Park, where they fell victim twice to the Colonials on Friday (4-1 and 7-1) and then again on Sunday, in 1-0 shutout fashion.
“What anted up in this series was consistent pitching and execution of pitches,” head coach Gregg Ritchie said. “It’s a nice way to start the A-10. But those games are done, and we’ve got the next opponent coming up.”
Despite their recent non-conference struggles, all was surprisingly calm in the Colonials’ dugout before the final game Sunday. The lineup card on the near wall bore starters’ nicknames instead of their real ones. New Orleans native Matthieu Robért, the freshman catcher, was jokingly written in as “Mardi Gras.” Senior outfielder Tyler McCarthy, who had two extra base hits on the day, was chalked in as “The General.”
Whether it was good vibes that kept the players loose, or just a newfound focus on going out and getting the job done, the Colonials played consistent baseball against the Minutemen, from the first pitch of game one until the final out of game three.
Game one started off with three GW hits in the first inning, the final coming off the bat of freshman infielder Eric Kalman and driving in the game’s first run. In the fourth, Robért smacked his second long ball of the season, putting the Colonials up 2-0. Senior infielder Justin Albright added a run to the tally in the same frame, knocking an RBI single to the outfield to put GW up 3-0.
On the hill, junior Luke Staub was a force. In seven innings of work, he gave up just one run on five hits while fanning five batters. Junior Craig Lejeune, who also got the save on Sunday, closed the door on the Minutemen with two innings of flawless relief.
The second half of Friday’s doubleheader was much of the same: dominant GW pitching, with an added dose of run support. Junior Aaron Weisberg turned in a one-run complete game, striking out six along the way without giving out a single base on balls. The Colonials had two big innings, a four-run fourth and a three-run sixth, on the way to a 7-1 rout of Massachusetts.
Senior outfielder Ryan Rickey went 4-7 in the doubleheader, with three doubles and the same number of runs batted in.
“We’ve honestly come so far in the first half [of the season],” freshman pitcher Max Kaplow said. “We earned each one of these wins this weekend and it’s huge that we are coming together. Mostly, I am so proud of this team because of how much work went into having things click.”
Game three on Sunday was a quiet one, but didn’t lack the strong pitching performance that highlighted games the first two. Kaplow turned in a six-inning shutout effort, working his way out of many tough jams along the way, including two with the bases loaded.
A textbook hit-and-run play by Kalman in the top of the fourth scored junior Owen Beightol in what turned out to be the game-deciding hit. The game went down to the wire, but ended in favor of the Colonials, completing the sweep.
“None of these wins were handed to us. It’s a confidence builder, but at the same time we have to find ways to get better and build on what we did well,” Kaplow said.
Winning three games to open the conference schedule is an impressive feat for a club that has struggled mightily thus far in non-conference play. But despite the major improvements on the pitching and hitting sides, Ritchie sees a few areas that must be addressed.
“We still had fielding errors, we still had a throwing error with two outs,” Ritchie said. “We had opportunities to execute a couple of times and get another run across the board, but we didn’t do it. So we have to take care of that.”
The Colonials will switch back to non-conference play when they travel to UMES Tuesday.