This post was written by Hatchet reporter Pete Hoegler.
Saturday provided a little bit of everything one could want in the sport of baseball: a walk-off, extra innings, two suicide squeezes, GW’s closer pitching five innings and a manager getting ejected.
But after 23 total innings, GW split its doubleheader against first-place VCU, dropping the series two games to one despite a thrilling final day of play.
Down 3–2 with two outs and two on in the bottom of the tenth, junior Kevin Mahala had a full count against one of the best closers in the country in VCU junior Sam Donko.
“With two strikes you just got to battle,” said Mahala. “You can’t get beat.”
And he didn’t. Mahala finally got hold of an inside fastball and drove it up the middle. VCU’s shortstop dove, kept it from getting into the outfield, spun, and gunned it over to first–not realizing sophomore Mark Osis was coming around from second base for the game-winning run.
The 4–3 victory kept GW (20-25, 9-6 A-10) from slipping in the Atlantic 10 standings, and with only three series’ left, the Colonials will be looking to stay within at least the top-four to avoid a play-in game at the A-10 Tournament in late May.
“Both sides came to play today,” head coach Gregg Ritchie, said after the game. “We came up big in the first game, and they did in the second. A lot of our guys stepped up.”
Before Mahala’s late-game heroics, junior starter Shane Sweeney had put GW in a 2–0 hole early after giving up a home run in the top of the third.
Ritchie knew his club had to have this one, so after seeing Sweeney get hit hard early, he went to his senior, Jacob Williams, who went the rest of the way giving up only one runs on five hits.
The Colonials got on the board in the bottom of the seventh after two doubles from Mahala and sophomore Brandon Chapman. But after leaving Chapman in scoring position in the seventh, and getting nothing together in the eighth, GW put everything on the line in the ninth against the nation’s leader in saves.
With one out, junior Cody Bryant knotted the score at two with a base-knock to right, scoring junior Larry McCabe, who pinch-ran for slugger Bobby Campbell. Sophomore Robbie Metz grounded out on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded to end the inning.
In the top of the 10th, senior Eddie Muhl could not hold the tie–giving up a single up the middle to put VCU (30-15, 12-6 A-10) up 3–2 before the Colonials took the decision in walk-off fashion.
Despite riding high off energy from game one’s finish, GW was not able to overcome another comeback win against VCU, falling in 14 innings, 8–7.
Once again Ritchie did not get much from his starter, sophomore Brady Renner, who went two and two-thirds innings, giving up four earned runs on five hits. After Ritchie went to his bullpen, VCU continued to come up with solid contact and added two more runs in the fourth to stretch the lead to 6–0.
GW responded with two runs in the bottom half of the frame after an RBI single by Campbell and an RBI groundout by junior Cody Bryant.
In the fifth, junior Andrew Selby led things off with a double roped down the right field line. Although Bartosic missed the suicide squeeze after Selby moved over, he was able to convert on an RBI single through the hole later in the bat. Mark Osis connected on an RBI single with two outs to cut the VCU lead to 6–4 later in the inning.
GW completed the comeback in the seventh inning, tying the score at seven. After a leadoff double by Metz, a single by Bartosic, and a nine-pitch walk from Campbell, Mahala laced a two-RBI double down the left field line.
Into extra innings, Ritchie elected to go with closer Eddie Muhl, who pitched 5.1 innings of scoreless baseball. Though he ran into a jam in the twelfth, Muhl pitched his way out of it, leaving runners at first and third.
When asked why he let his closer go like that, Ritchie said, “We just kept sending him out there, and he kept doing his thing.”
“This was the most I’ve pitched since high school and I can honestly say that my arm feels great,” Muhl said.
GW had an opportunity to win the game in the tenth inning with runners in scoring position, but Metz’s line drive was caught by a diving VCU right-fielder to close the frame.
“Our guys grew a lot this game,” said Ritchie. “We knew it was going to be tough to win both, but we’re confident we’re the better side, that’s the truth. I’m proud of this group.”