Due to timely hitting and depth on the mound, baseball (9-11) grabbed a 2-1 series win against the VMI Keydets (9-9) at Tucker Field this weekend.
The Colonials secured their second series win of the year, despite competing without two usual weekend starters – senior Brady Renner and sophomore Elliott Raimo.
GW keyed in on limiting the bats of their offensive-minded opponent, who scored 80 runs over an eight-game span this season and relied on standout offensive performances in road wins over No. 19 ranked South Carolina and No. 15 ranked Virginia.
Junior right-hander Nathan Woods – who started Sunday – said it was essential the pitching staff picked up the slack in the absence of two regulars.
“Having other guys on our staff step up – especially since we didn’t have Brady or Raimo this weekend – just gives our team more confidence to be able to grind out those at-bats we have with the tough hitters here,” he said.
Senior outfielder Mark Osis led the charge on offense, finishing 7-for-12 with four runs batted in and three runs scored to increase his batting average to a team-high .364 on the season.
Friday’s series opener was dominated by the bats, with the two teams combining for 24 hits and 16 runs in a 9-7 VMI victory.
The Colonials offense saw the ball well out of the glove of Southern Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year Josh Winder. He threw 105 pitches over 6.1 innings, but surrendered 10 hits and six runs to up his earned run average to 5.74 on the season.
Sophomore right-hander Jaret Edwards picked up his second start of the season and went 4.2 innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out six Keydets. He was backed up by a solid offense all afternoon, including a four-run fourth inning to give the Colonials a 6–2 lead. GW’s lineup – which featured a hit by all but one starter – was led by Osis’ perfect 4-for-4 day.
But in the top of the ninth, with senior right-hander Tyler Swiggart on the mound, the cold and windy afternoon was turned on its head. After whittling the deficit down to a 6–5 ballgame, VMI struck for four runs in the final inning – putting GW away for good.
The Colonials mounted a rally in the bottom half of the inning, going after VMI right-hander Matt Eagle, but ultimately fell short.
After falling behind early Saturday, the Colonials rode a small-ball approach and a strong relief appearance from sophomore right-hander Andrew Wheeler to an 8–5 comeback victory.
Junior pitcher Will Kobos – who generally serves as the team’s closer – got his first start of the season. But he struggled to find the strike zone, lasting just two innings after four walks, two earned runs and striking out four batters as GW fell behind 3–0.
Osis stole back the game’s momentum by smashing a second-inning home run over the right field wall. But the Colonials bullpen continued to pitch wildly, walking five of the nine Keydets they faced in the third inning.
The Colonials went into the fourth inning in a 5–1 hole. Wheeler provided the solution, setting down 14 of the 15 batters he faced.
“We had a couple of non-ideal innings to start the game, and I told them that somebody needs to be the guy right now,” pitching coach Rick Oliveri said. “Andrew Wheeler stepped up – it’s the second time he’s done that this year – he’s come in and been a guy who’s slammed the door on some opportunities and kept us in the ball game.”
In the sixth inning, senior catcher Brandon Chapman provided the runs GW was searching for with a two-RBI double into left field to put the Colonials ahead 6-5. GW then tacked on two insurance runs to take an 8-5 lead and senior utility player Isaiah Pasteur shut the door to even the series.
In the rubber match, the Colonials faced senior southpaw Kyle Staats, who came in with a 3.38 ERA across five appearances. The Colonials put Woods out on the mound for the contest, who surrendering three hits over seven innings to secure his first win, and a 4–2 GW victory.
Junior designated hitter Dominic D’Alessandro started the afternoon with a no-doubt home run in the bottom of the third inning to give the Colonials a 1-0 lead. But a VMI triple and a sacrifice fly tied the game up in the next inning.
The Colonials retaliated in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases as Staats struggled to find the zone. D’Allesandro walked to bring in another run and put the home team ahead 2–1.
In the top of the fifth, Woods worked out of a bases-loaded jam to escape unscathed.
The highlight of Sunday’s contest came in the top of the eighth inning after VMI knocked a single into right field and gave a base runner a chance to score from second base. Sophomore right fielder Steven Barmakian cut off the attempt just in time and Chapman tagged the runner to preserve GW’s advantage on the scoreboard.
Chapman then provided extra offense in the bottom of the frame, hitting a two-run home run off of VMI third baseman Nathan Eaton and giving the Colonials a 4–1 cushion.
“It just goes back to our two-strike approach,” Chapman said. “All I was trying to do there was put the ball in play and have a productive ball in play, and it paid off.”
The Keydets loaded the bases in the ninth inning, but Pasteur again closed out the win on the mound.
The Colonials will play the fourth game of their eight-game homestand Tuesday against William & Mary. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.