With an explosive offense already in check, baseball is looking to strengthen its defense heading into conference play.
The Colonials (12-9, 3-1 A-10) rank in the top 15 in the nation with a team batting average of .300. But consistency on both sides of the ball has been an issue for GW this season as the team’s ERA of 5.46 ranks in the bottom half of all 284 Division I teams nationally.
GW surrendered an average of 8.6 runs a game across an eight-game stretch in mid-March. The team dropped all three games to Saint Joseph’s and its final two games against Seton Hall despite picking up a win in its first showing against the Pirates.
“In a few earlier games, we kind of let the hitters down,” junior left-handed pitcher Rich Pfluger said. “They had some good offensive outputs, and as pitchers, we allowed too many free bases and things like that, so just to throw strikes and pitch to our abilities by attacking hitters.”
Pfluger said he and his fellow pitchers would “do our part” to win games in the A-10. Pfluger added that the team’s slate of high-caliber opponents in the nonconference slate has prepared them well heading into conference play.
The Colonials faced Virginia – a top 10-ranked team in the preseason according to Baseball America – twice during their nonconference slate, losing both games 11–1 and 7–2.
GW’s nonconference schedule was highlighted by series sweeps of Lehigh and Delaware State. In three games against Delaware State alone, the Colonials scored 32 runs and averaged .402 at the plate.
“Especially as an offense, I know from our perspective we’re very confident in who we are and we’re just trying to stick to who we are,” junior outfielder Cade Fergus said. “Just get the job done and score as many runs as we can so we can have our pitcher’s backs.”
Pfluger and Fergus said the most memorable moment of the nonconference campaign came against Lehigh in the series finale.
After being down by as many as five runs, junior infielder Noah Levin hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning to help the Colonials claw back into the game and secure the series sweep. Fergus said the series showed that the Colonials can win any game, regardless of a poor start.
Despite the up-and-down results of the early season schedule, the team has won three of its last four games in nonconference play, giving up its only game to the Cavaliers.
Ritchie said the recent momentum shift has increased his confidence in the team, particularly in the pitching staff. The Colonials notched 26 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.82 over the last four nonconference games.
“At times we have pulled it all together where we’ve had the pitching and the hitting and the defense,” Ritchie said. “The biggest thing is just consistency, and I think we have really done well in the last three to four games where that stuff started coming together.”
To kick off the majority of the team’s conference slate, the Colonials topped VCU in three of their four meetings Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The squad bounced back from a 6–4 opening loss Friday to nab three straight one-run wins. The series win was GW’s first against VCU since 2013.
The Colonials allowed the Rams to score an average of four runs a game and held them below their season batting average, swinging at a .262 clip throughout the series. GW’s arms recorded a 3.61 ERA throughout the series.
After last season’s premature end amid the pandemic, Ritchie said his roster this season follows a next man up mentality and has built a “family unity” to keep players focused on winning.
“They’re worried about today,” Ritchie said. “Let’s play great baseball, today. Let’s play a great inning. Let’s win the inning. And with that mindset and that belief and that family unity, anything can come to fruition and success can happen and you can overcome adversities because the next man stands up because he wants to protect the other guy.”
He added his team is built to handle difficult situations both on and off the field, and its determination to grind out wins will carry on throughout the remaining 20-game A-10 slate.
“Whether it’s pandemic, whether it’s injuries, whether it’s one side of the ball is not doing as well as the other side of the ball, it’s about picking each other up and pushing the other one forward,” Ritchie said. “You’re going to see that kind of grit and moxie in this team all the way through the season.”
The Colonials will take about a two-week respite from conference play with standalone matches against Coppin State Wednesday, Georgetown April 20 and Towson April 21. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. against the Eagles.