Baseball beats first ranked opponent since 2008 with win over No. 16 Maryland

Senior Ryan Xepoleas makes his way toward first base in a game earlier this season. File Photo by Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Senior Ryan Xepoleas makes his way toward first base in a game earlier this season. File Photo by Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.

University of Maryland Baltimore County is not ranked nationally. University of Maryland, College Park is ranked No. 16 in the country. GW played both of them, on back-to-back days, this week. Don’t try to guess which team GW beat.

Tuesday, the Colonials dropped their road game at UMBC 10-5 after the seventh inning unraveled on them.

Wednesday, GW came back and defeated the Terrapins 12-1 in an offensive showcase, scoring in five separate innings and tallying four runs in an inning two times. It was the Colonials’ first win over a ranked opponent since 2008.

It’s been a trend for the Colonials to drop one game to a lesser opponent and then play well against a seemingly stronger team in the next, as they did earlier in the season against UMES and Georgetown. They also played well in California during spring break against top-tier talent.

Defeating a ranked opponent, particularly one that is local, can be gratifying for a coach trying to build a program.

“You need some kind of validation like that,” head coach Gregg Ritchie said. “To play with those guys and when you compete, you realize you can and you believe it, it’s a big thing. You know you’re going in the right direction.”

The Colonials had to bounce back, just like their freshman reliever Tyler Swiggart after a potentially historic outing Tuesday evening.

Swiggart had a 1-2-3 first inning of work in the sixth. Then came the seventh. On his first pitch, he hit the batter. The next ball out of his hand, he hit batsman number two. Before a pitcher could even get warm, Swiggart hit the third batter of the inning on the fourth pitch.

UMBC went onto score six runs in the inning, with freshman Kevin Hodgson coming out of the bullpen unable to stop the bleeding. Before that point, the score was knotted at four in a back-and-forth contest.

They were unable to scratch a hit in the final two innings of the game.

“When we got back on the bus that night, when we lost that game in that fashion, the one thing I said to those couple pitchers, especially Swigg, was ‘You got to wash it, flush it, it’s done. Wipe it off, wipe it clean,’” Ritchie said. “And I told Swig, ‘You be ready. We’re going to put you right back up on the horse and you’re going to get it done.’”

Junior Jacob Williams got the start against Maryland allowing one run on three hits in a short stint. Heading into the third inning, he carried a 5-1 lead, but Ritchie took him out after recording one out with a rising pitch count – hoping to preserve his arm for a potential start or long role on Sunday in conference play.

Instead, Ritchie brought in Swiggart, who recorded the final two outs of the inning via the strikeout.

“They are showing an ability to bounce back in a lot of resiliency after a loss that hurts you kind of mentally or emotionally, and they’re wiping that off and they’re coming back and winning the game after that,” Ritchie said.

Seven pitchers combined to hold Maryland to one run on eight hits. Hodgson came in after his shaky inning against UMBC, too, and struck out two in his one inning.

The bullpen of senior Craig LeJeune and sophomore Eddie Muhl locked down the end of the game. Craig pitched the final two outs of the eighth and Muhl pitched the ninth, striking out the side.

Meanwhile, the offense was carried by freshman Brandon Chapman, who batted cleanup and went 3-4 with two RBI, two runs and one walk. Sophomore Kevin Mahala also drove in two runs, and sophomore Joey Bartosic scored three runs, despite not recording a hit.

When they headed back to the bus after their season’s marquee victory, there was little ado about the win.

“You need to soak this one in and take some really good feelings about it and take some pride in it. Enjoy it and bask in it for split second,” Ritchie said. “The bus was calm. It wasn’t loud and like, ‘Oh my God, we did something great.’ No, it wasn’t that way. It was extremely calm. As a matter of fact we just won a game, we’re going home and we have another game on Friday.”

The Colonials will look to carry their momentum against Dayton at home this weekend. At 18-10, GW is two wins off from matching last season’s win total.

Junior Bobby LeWarne is the probable starter Friday. Freshman Robbie Metz – who tripped over a bag in Tuesday’s game and sat Wednesday’s game for rest – is expected to go Saturday. Sunday is still to be determined, between the likely candidates of juniors Shane Kemp or Jacob Williams.

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