After injuries and pitching woes stunted baseball’s playoff hopes last season, the squad is armed with new additions to bolster its performance on the mound.
With 21 rostered pitchers, the Colonials (1-1) have the largest number of aces in more than 18 years. Pitchers said the expanded rotation on the mound and in the bullpen will add depth, give them an opportunity to throw specialized pitches and increase pitching advantages in matchups with hitters.
“We’ve got a lot of arms this year,” senior right-handed pitcher Keagan McGinnis said. “A lot of guys can do a lot of good and different things, which is huge. It gives us a lot of advantages, especially in matchups.”
Despite a strong offense and a 30-win 2019 season, GW’s campaign was cut short by an inconsistent, injury-riddled pitching staff. GW pitchers gave up 296 earned runs last season, ranking in the bottom three of Atlantic 10 teams.
Senior right-hander Elliott Raimo and 2019 graduates and right-handers Brady Renner and Nate Woods were also sidelined for the majority of the season, leaving the Colonials without three key arms on the mound. The trio finished the season 15-15.
The Colonials are set to return 14 of the 17 pitchers from the 2019 season. Head coach Gregg Ritchie said junior right-hander Justin Solt, a First Team All-West Region pitcher in his sophomore season at Lower Columbia and a new addition to the squad, could throw significant innings for the Colonials. Solt found success at the junior college level, posting a 2.42 earned run average in 2019.
“Solt is very similar to Nate Woods,” Ritchie said. “He’s just got that presence on the mound where he’s unflappable, all about business. He’s got that IT factor, he’s a strike-thrower and he’s got an assortment of 4-5 pitches.”
After sustaining an injury during his 2017-18 season and spending 2018-19 working back to his former level, Ritchie said Raimo looks “the strongest” in two campaigns.
Raimo said he wanted to focus on maintaining a consistent start Sunday and hoped to build off his first trip to the mound in his final season with the Colonials.
“For me at least, you always get the first game, like butterflies, nerves in your stomach, but I think just going out and getting a good start, a good five, six innings for the team and giving them a chance to win,” Raimo said. “That’s all you can really do in the first game out there.”
At the opening tournament, the Colonials split their first two games, nabbing a 7–3 victory Friday over Nicholls State before falling in a 1–0 decision to SIUE. The game Sunday was canceled because of impending inclement weather.
In that stretch of games, the Colonials’ starters went for 6.1 innings, allowing just four runs through two games. Redshirt sophomore Harrison Cohen struck out nine and didn’t give up a walk in his outing Friday. Solt struck out four batters and allowed five hits.
The bullpen allowed just one hit and kept its competitors runless in both games, with McGinnis earning his first save of the year against Nicholls State.
McGinnis said he and his teammates are working to stay hydrated and stretch regularly to limit injuries.
“Really make sure that you prevent those little injuries that build up over the season, so getting ahead of them before they actually happen is huge for us and we’ve been doing a lot more of that,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis said he will come out of the bullpen for the Colonials this season. Ritchie added that he hopes the bullpen trio of McGinnis, sophomore Chris Knight and junior Trevor Kuncl will secure the squad in the latter innings and blank its opponents in the back half of the game.
With a healthy pitching staff boosted by new additions, Ritchie said the Colonials are looking to improve on the mound this season. He added that pitching was the key to returning to the postseason.
“We were the number one offense in the conference last year, and we were not able to make the playoffs for the first time in five years,” Ritchie said. “If you look at the numbers, it’s about pitching. We scored around seven runs a game and struggled to get Ws when we needed Ws. So the pitching has to take a step forward for us to be back in the playoffs.”
The Colonials return to Tucker Field for its home opener Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.