Every game is said to count the same as the next, but there are always a few series each year that seem to weigh a little bit heavier. This weekend, GW faced one of those series, as they battled Atlantic 10 foe VCU, taking the series, but dropping the third game and losing hope for a sweep.
The Colonials (22-30, 12-9) went into their second-to-last series of the season against the Rams (25-25, 9-12) knowing they would need to win at least two out of three to keep their A-10 postseason hopes alive. Their next and final series is at home next weekend against La Salle (23-24, 15-6), who is currently tied for second place in the conference.
At the end of the weekend series, the Colonials were tied for the seventh and final qualifying playoff spot with Saint Joseph’s. Saint Joseph’s will face off at home with fourth place Rhode Island (30-22,14-7) in their final series.
The Colonials started off the series on the right foot, eking out a 1-0 win courtesy of heroics by senior shortstop Matthew Murakami.
In the midst of a scoreless battle, GW kept pace in the first game off the strength of junior Luke Staub’s pitching performance. Staub threw 6 1/3 innings on the mound, allowing just five hits and no runs. Over his last 21 innings, the junior has yielded just three earned runs, amassing a minuscule 1.29 earned run average over that time.
The Colonials bullpen then pieced together the victory from the seventh inning onward, with junior Craig LeJeune ultimately earning the win.
With VCU applying pressure in the bottom of the eighth, freshman pitcher Bobby LeWarne recorded an out on a heads-up glove flip to catcher Xavier Parkmond on a squeeze play, putting an end to an imminent Rams scoring threat.
GW held their fate in their own hands as they headed to the last out of the ninth. Junior Owen Beightol started off the ninth with a leadoff single, followed by a well-executed sacrifice bunt by senior Tyler McCarthy. An intentional walk by VCU and a single off the pitcher’s glove gave the Colonials the bases loaded with Murakami coming to the plate.
On the second pitch of his at-bat, Murakami sliced the ball through the left side of the infield, driving in the winning run for his team.
Game two of the series was postponed on Saturday due to inclement weather, setting up a doubleheader conclusion between the two teams on Sunday.
In the first of the two games, GW maintained their winning ways as they went on to defeat the Rams 7-3. The Colonials jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first and never looked back from there. Senior Justin Albright, last week’s A-10 Baseball Player of the Week, led off the game with a base hit and eventually scored on an RBI single by Beightol. Later, a double off the left-field wall from senior Derek Brown drove in two more.
Junior Aaron Weisberg earned his team-leading sixth win of the season on six innings of three-run, five-hit, three-strikeout ball. The bullpen carried the Colonials for the rest of the nine innings, again using the successful LeWarne-LeJeune combination. LeJeune recorded his 12th save of the season, just four shy of tying the team record.
The final game of the series resulted in a 9-2 Colonials loss as head coach Gregg Ritchie found himself struggling to find strong arms in his bullpen. Starting the game was McCarthy, who was unable to record an out and allowed three runs, one hit and two walks before being yanked. An assorted crew of pitchers came in to mop up for the senior, but few could stop the bleeding from VCU’s newfound offense.
The game had some bright spots. Albright extended his games-safely-reaching-base streak to 18, with one hit for the day.
Junior Brookes Townsend started his first game since being injured with a broken hand in the Fordham series, coming in to pinch hit and play defense in the first game of the double header, before starting at first base in the second game. Injuries still plague the Colonials, as freshman Max Kaplow has yet to return after being scratched from his start at Fordham three weeks ago.
GW will face the second-place La Salle Explorers this weekend with their season’s future on the line, and hope to get a little help from Rhode Island as they take on Saint Joseph’s.
This year, the A-10 tournament will feature seven teams, with the first team receiving a first round bye while the other six play the first round in a double-elimination format. The division is tight, with just four conference losses separating the first place team from the seventh place team.