Baseball (0-3) was swept by Tulane (3-0) at Greer Field in the opening weekend of its 2019 season.
The team lost in walk-off fashion 3-2 Friday and 7-6 Saturday before suffering a 16-6 blowout defeat Sunday afternoon to wrap up the series.
With the departure of three of GW’s most potent hitters in Isaiah Pasteur, Robbie Metz and Mark Osis and a return to health for a few injured arms, the Colonials will rely on a shifting lineup as head coach Gregg Ritchie experiments to find his most effective starting nine.
The series had five starters making their GW debuts and the Colonials’ lineup showed room for improvement on both sides of the ball – providing a first look at how the season may unfold.
1. Sturdy starters on the mound
Despite the team’s losses, the Colonials’ pitchers had a strong showing over the weekend.
Senior right-handed pitcher Nate Woods, who is slated to be baseball’s Friday starter this year, was lights-out in the season opener, tossing 6.1 innings while yielding just two hits and two runs, including one earned, while striking out four batters and walking none through 93 pitches.
Aside from a rocky first inning, junior Jaret Edwards seemed to find his rhythm and kept Tulane hitters off balance. He was rattled by a fifth-inning inside-the-park home run, but responded by striking out five batters in five innings. He was bounced after five innings, charged with six hits, four earned runs and three walks.
Sunday marked the return of redshirt senior right hander Brady Renner, who made just two starts last year before earning a medical redshirt. Working on a limited pitch count, Renner threw 65 pitches as he battled through 3.2 innings, but he induced swing-and-misses, striking out six batters despite allowing three runs before losing his command in the fourth inning.
“It was a real win for Brady Renner and for this team to have him back on that mound, pitching clean, pitching free of any pain of any kind, with his velocity, with his stuff,” Ritchie said. “It’s only going to get better from here.”
For a group that was banged up at the end of the 2018 season, Ritchie said he will watch pitch counts and keep a watchful eye over his pitching staff.
“We played extremely competitive,” Ritchie said. “We were in position to win two games if we can throw the ball and pitch a little better at the end.”
2. Leadoff struggles
The Colonials tacked on 14 runs in the series, highlighted by a 4-for-10 weekend from senior right fielder Dom D’Alessandro and sophomore infielder Tyler Hix, who had six runs batted in. However, the 1-2-3 hitters in the lineup struggled mightily, combining to hit just 5-for-42 (.119).
Cade Fergus, a freshman center fielder in the leadoff spot, was just 2-for-16 with six strikeouts. Junior third baseman Steve Barmakian finished the weekend 1-for-14 with one strikeout and one walk. In the three-hole, junior shortstop Nate Fassnacht was 2-for-12 on the weekend.
Just three games into the season, it is not surprising to see Fergus struggle a bit against Division I pitchers, who have sharper breaking balls, better movement on fastballs and better command of their secondary pitches. But Ritchie wanted his team, especially Barmakian and Fassnacht, to take smarter approaches in what he called “leveraged” counts.
“We took some ill-advised at-bats in leveraged counts, and when we had leveraged-counts we took the wrong approach or we swung on a bad pitch, one of the two,” Ritchie said. “That was something that hurt us offensively where we could have very easily scored three to four more runs in the first game and spread it out in the second game.”
3. Crucial defensive miscues
GW’s sloppy fielding was its downfall over the weekend and cost the Colonials in each game – Tulane scored four unearned runs over the three games, including a game-winner.
The Colonials did play solid defense, especially up the middle, where they turned four double plays, and behind the plate, where junior catcher Greg Anderberg was having a field day blocking balls and throwing out runners in double plays. But miscues in crucial situations were an area of concern.
With the game tied 2–2 in the ninth inning Friday, D’Alessandro misplayed a fly ball, allowing the ball to drop and gifting Tulane a double. An overthrown ball from Fassnacht to first base in the next play allowed the Green Wave to knock in the winning run of the game.
Another missed fly ball Saturday led to a game-tying inside-the-park homer for Tulane, and a dropped pop-up and dropped catch later in the day get runners on base for the Green Wave set the stage for Tulane to take the win.
“We had a lot of fantastic defense going on, it was unfortunate that the errors that we had were in the wrong moment,” Ritchie said.
The Colonials will face Saint Peter’s this weekend for their first home series of the year at Tucker Field at Barcroft Park. First pitch is slated for 2:30 p.m. Friday.