There was no extra-inning drama in Harrisonburg on Sunday, no nail-biting finish to cap off the Colonials’ final non-conference series of the season.
Nor was there a continuation of the solid pitching that pushed GW to near victory in game one and complete victory in game two.
Instead, in game three, the Colonials (16-28, 7-8 A-10) fell with relative ease. By the time Sunday’s nine innings were up, seven different pitchers had taken to the mound for GW, and as the final 14-5 score foreshadows, they found no answer for a James Madison lineup that never seemed to quiet down.
After a 12-5 trouncing of UMBC on Wednesday, the Colonials appeared in good shape to pick up some confidence wins this weekend. But after dropping a heartbreaking 12-inning first game and winning a close second one, the Colonials suffered a harsh blow at the hands of the Dukes in the series finale.
The notable drop-off in performance during the final game perhaps symbolizes the inconsistencies of this year’s squad, a group whose overall record now lies 10 games under .500.
This series also illustrates how Gregg Ritchie approaches non-conference series differently than conference ones. On Sunday alone, Ritchie used three freshman pinch hitters and four freshman pitchers, a method that he has rarely utilized during A-10 contests, but more frequently in non-conference ones.
In the first half of the doubleheader on Sunday, GW’s junior hurler Luke Staub stole the show early on. Finishing with six and two-thirds innings under his belt, Staub allowed three runs and struck out four. Freshman Nolan Lodden knocked an RBI single in the bottom of the third, and the Colonials added two more to make it 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth.
Working towards a complete game shutout, Staub ran into untimely difficulties in the seventh. Three Dukes crossed the plate before the inning ended, which knotted the game at three apiece and eventually sent the game into extras. GW’s bats – asleep since the sixth – failed to plate the go-ahead run before the Dukes slashed things open with two runs in the 12th. The Colonials fell without a whisper in the bottom half of the inning, and the game ended with JMU up 5-3.
Game two of the doubleheader was essentially the same as game one, without the mistimed pitching woes. Junior Aaron Weisberg went five strong, allowing only two runs. The bullpen took the reins from there, as juniors Colin Milon and Craig LeJeune kept the Dukes silent over the final three frames.
Senior Ryan Hickey and freshman Matthieu Robért each knocked in two RBIs, providing four of the five runs in the Colonials 5-2 victory.
It was as if game three started where game one ended, however, with JMU’s sluggers teeing off on GW pitching. The Dukes totaled 14 runs on 17 hits, and eight of their runs came in the eighth inning alone. What was a 5-4 GW lead in the sixth turned into a blowout win for JMU, thanks to their plating 10 runs in the final three innings.
Junior Owen Beightol extended his hit streak to 11 games on Saturday before failing to reach base at all on Sunday. The stretch, during which Beightol went 16 for 46 and batted .348, was the longest streak for a GW hitter this season.
Though singular bad innings have hurt GW on multiple occasions this season, Sunday’s breakdown painted an unsure picture of a Colonials’ team trying to find some rhythm. Only three untouched conference series remain on their schedule, with 11 games total remaining before the playoffs.
Head coach Gregg Ritchie declined to offer a phone interview on his team’s performance this weekend.
On Tuesday, the Colonials will host future A-10 rival George Mason at Barcroft Park.