For the first 90 minutes of his sixth career start, freshman pitcher Elliott Raimo turned in one of the most impressive performances of his young career for GW.
In the series finale against the Massachusetts Minutemen (5-9, 2-1 A-10), Raimo retired 15 consecutive batters, tossing six strikeouts and allowing no hits through five innings.
The rubber match appeared to be heading for a close finish until a few sloppy plays in the sixth inning had a domino effect on the rest of the game. In a tale of two halves, things quickly spiraled out of control for the Colonials (10-13, 1-2 A-10), ending in an 10-4 Massachusetts blowout Sunday afternoon at Tucker Field to win the three-game series 2-1.
“It was two different games. We played really, really well, and really, really bad,” head coach Gregg Ritchie said. “They played their hearts out, they did a lot of good things, but as these guys know, this game doesn’t reward you for just being OK, you have to be very consistent, and we just were not very consistent.”
Despite out-hitting the Minutemen 12-6, the Colonials failed to capitalize with runners in scoring position. After stranding 13 runners on Saturday, GW left seven more runners at second and third base on Sunday.
“We just didnt plate runs when we had to. We were leaving runners at third base, over two days, eight or nine times?” Ritchie said. “You leave those guys there, and you’re going to put undue pressure on the pitching to actually be perfect.”
Outside of Raimo’s performance through the first half of the game, the Colonials bullpen struggled to silence the vistors’ barrels. The Minutemen were able to convert 10 runs on just six hits, thanks in large part to eight walks and two hit-by-pitches. The Colonials employed five pitchers in relief, including 2.1 shaky innings from their usually-dependable closer, Eddie Muhl.
“They wouldn’t find the strike zone, those guys came in and walked, five guys, hit two batters,” Ritchie said. “It was really about them not finding the ball in the strike zone as pitchers.”
Four defensive errors by GW helped Massachusetts drive in runners following walks over the final three innings. The Minutemen, by contrast, committed zero errors in the game.
The Colonials broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning. Campbell doubled down the right field line, and freshman shortstop Nate Fassnacht drove him in with an RBI single when the Minutemen were unable to grab a fly ball to the right field line. Campbell, who is hitting .357 this season, was 4 for 4 on the day.
GW then loaded the bases, but the bottom of the Colonials lineup gave up three quick outs to end the inning, stranding two more runners in scoring position.
A deadlocked fifth inning led to a chaotic sixth for the home team. After retiring 15 consecutive batters, miscommunication between Raimo and junior catcher Brandon Chapman caused Raimo to fumble a bunt by Massachusetts’ senior centerfielder Dylan Morris, allowing Morris to get to first base.
“I threw a fastball, and kind of unexpectedly he bunted again with two strikes, so it kind of caught me off guard,” Raimo said. “I hustled to grab the ball and it was kind of like those in between plays where I felt like I could get it, but we were both right there…I just didn’t make a play on it.”
The Minutemen proceeded to load the bases thanks to a sacrifice bunt, a hit-by-pitch, and a walk. Raimo was then pulled from the game after 5.1 innings of nearly flawless pitching.
The decision to pull Raimo proved to be costly for the Colonials. Sophomore righty Will Kobos lasted only one out, allowing a sacrifice fly and two walks to let the Minutemen pull ahead 2-1. Eddie Muhl, the Colonials’ closer, came in and got the Colonials their last out to escape the top of the sixth inning down by just one run.
The equalizer for the Colonials came soon after, in the bottom of the sixth. Junior left fielder Mark Osis was walked, and after a Fassnacht sac-fly moved him to second, junior second baseman Robbie Metz drove in Osis with an RBI single to left field, knotting the game at 2-2.
Unfortunately, a pair of errors in the top of the seventh inning would be the Colonials’ undoing. The Minutemen drove in two more runs to take a 4-2 lead before GW would pull to within one heading into the final inning.
UMass put the game away for good in the ninth, blasting the game open with six runs on four hits to build a 10-3 cushion.
After Muhl walked sophomore Alec Norton, freshman pitcher Jared Edwards allowed Jon Avalone to single to right field, moving Norton to third and Avallone to first. A walk to Brett Evangelista then loaded the bases.
From there, two more GW pitchers – Chance Malek and Dylan Wheeler – looked to secure outs in a ninth inning that lasted over 40 minutes, with the bases loaded nearly the entire time. The Minutemen cashed in with the Colonials reeling.
“We just didn’t execute, it comes down to that,” Campbell said. “We left a lot of runners on base, but at the end of the day we just have to bounce back from the loss and get ready for the next series.”
The Colonials are set to host the Towson Tigers at Tucker Field Tuesday at 3 p.m.