The Colonials had just begun to think that their 0-9 start to the season was a mirage.
In a year when the team picked up a seasoned coaching staff and a spruced up stadium meant to reinvigorate their program, the baseball team christened Barcroft Park in conference play with three straight Atlantic 10 series wins.
But the supposed turnaround is starting to skid off the rails again.
After dropping three in a row to Richmond last weekend, GW (11-21, 5-4 A-10) fell again to District rival Georgetown on Tuesday, losing 9-1 in an effort that head coach Gregg Ritchie categorized as “uninspired, ‘don’t care’ baseball.”
The criticism came only four days after he called the Colonials’ performance against Richmond “absolutely putrid.” Now, after the four consecutive losses, Ritchie sees his club’s recent lifelessness as a much more serious – and frustrating – concern.
“They didn’t step up their effort. They didn’t step up their focus,” Ritchie said. “They didn’t want to, care to or desire to.”
The storyline from Tuesday was pretty simple: Georgetown tallied 13 hits while GW managed only two. The Hoyas’ pitching gave up one run while the Colonials’ pitching allowed nine and walked five.
The only ironic plot twist: a pitcher scored GW’s sole run. After a frustrating day at the plate for the entire Colonial lineup, Ritchie called on junior pitcher Colin Milon to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth for the number-three batter junior Owen Beightol. Milon singled, and would eventually cross the plate for GW’s first and last time on the day.
In fact, Milon was one of three pitchers to pinch-hit for position players in the Colonials’ final frame. Freshman Luke Olson eventually replaced freshman cleanup hitter Eric Kalman, too. Then, sophomore right-hander Matthew Seedorff took over for freshman catcher Mathieu Robért, who has more home runs this season than the rest of his teammates combined.
Ritchie has never been shy about benching players who don’t perform, but Tuesday’s substitutions perhaps indicate a new level of frustration Ritchie is feeling regarding his players’ level of effort – or lack thereof. Though the Colonials put together what he called an “inspired, activated and fully engaged” stretch before their current losing streak began, Ritchie said they have yet to deal with defeat maturely.
“You have to grow up. You have to be a man. We had no men stepping up today,” the former Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach said. “Things aren’t gonna go perfectly all the time.”
The club’s attitude, Ritchie said, still at least partially resembles a deep-rooted clubhouse culture that was already part of the Colonials’ psyche upon his arrival.
“These guys are going through something that they have never been able to get over. The talent level gets a little bit challenged, and you get some guys out there that are going to play harder baseball than them,” Ritchie said. “They are still asking themselves, ‘Are we going to play tougher?’”
Still one game above .500 in conference play, GW is in a comfortable position in the A-10 field. And with five conference series remaining, there is still plenty of schedule left for the team to make improvements.
One thing is certain regarding the Colonials’ current jam: Ritchie expects more from his guys and is not afraid to make it known. At a basic level, he expects them to consistently “leave everything on the field” without regard for the opponent or the results of the previous game.
The first part of that might be learning how to bounce back from defeat.
“A squirrel can always find a nut every now and then. It’s the good squirrel that can find consistent nuts and actually lives through the winter,” Ritchie said.
GW will play a three-game series at Charlotte this weekend – the same site of this year’s conference tournament.