For GW, a Wednesday afternoon baseball game might have been a good distraction from finals.
But their opponent needed a bigger distraction. For West Baltimore’s Coppin State, a team who entered the afternoon 3-34-2, the game meant they got to play a game after the short drive to D.C.
“We weren’t going far from home, but far enough where it seemed like miles and miles and miles away, because we do escape the tensions of all that’s going on back home,” said Coppin State head coach Sherman Reed. Reed was born and raised in West Baltimore, the location of the recent Baltimore protests and riots in response to the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose spine was severed while he was in police custody.
The Eagles drove down in two team vans with 20 ballplayers and coaches, away from the distractions going on blocks away from Coppin State’s campus in the Mondawmin neighborhood of Baltimore. Although it has been relatively quiet and void of trouble, Reed gave his guys Monday and Tuesday off, in addition to university-wide abbreviated schedules, and called his players every couple hours to check on them.
“It’s pretty depressing,” Reed said on the recent events. “We had some teleconference calls lined up on Monday and we had to move those, because quite honestly when you’re recruiting, you really need to be in your right frame of mind. There was so much just going on in Baltimore at that time, me and my assistant agreed just to reschedule those until we had a better hold on things going on in the city.”
Potential concerns and accommodations were discussed early in the week between Reed and GW head coach Gregg Ritchie. Mother nature also cooperated with a beautiful Wednesday afternoon for some baseball.
But Wednesday afternoon, as the Baltimore Orioles played against the Chicago White Sox in front of a ballpark kept empty over concerns for fan safety, the Eagles faced the Colonials in front of about 30 fans at Tucker Field in Arlington, Va. The Colonials had hosted Towson, another Baltimore-based team, the day before in a 9-4 win.
Through the first four innings Wednesday, the game was tied at one with Coppin State out hitting GW 5-3.
With slower pitching coming from the Eagles than the Colonials are used to seeing, GW got caught out in front of pitches and chased balls. But when a pitcher with a little zip on his fastball came out of the bullpen, the Colonials bats started to wake up.
GW started the fifth with a leadoff walk. A run scored on a badly defended bunt and a wild pitch. But the real awakening came in the sixth inning when the Colonials scored six runs on six hits, all with two outs, batting around in the lineup. They tacked on three more in the seventh, when the subs came in and got a piece of the action.
“Every team can hang in there and every team can beat you,” Ritchie said. “If you don’t play to a level to score runs and stop them from scoring, you will get beat by anyone in America.”
GW would go on to win 11-2 and improve to 26-14, with 17 wins at home. They now gear up for their most important series to date: a three-game weekend stretch at Rhode Island. The Rams are tied for first place in the Atlantic 10 with Richmond, with both teams one game ahead of GW in the loss column.
GW fielded a makeshift lineup due to a stomach bug that sidelined sophomore shortstop Kevin Mahala, freshman outfielder Matt Cosentino and sophomore leadoff man Joey Bartosic. Ritchie said resting the slightly sick Bartosic was merely a precaution.
Freshman Robbie Metz fell into the leadoff spot, going 2-4 with three RBI and three runs scored. Sophomore Eli Kashi, getting the start at his natural position of shortstop, went 2-3 with one RBI and one run scored.
“My approach is to just shoot the six-hole, hit to the other side. That’s been the biggest thing for me because it makes sure I’m focused, make sure I’m shooting it the other way,” said Kashi, who also talked to some Coppin State players before the game about how they have been affected by the protests.
Sophomore Cody Bryant would leave the game after hurting his hand while diving for a line drive at third base. Junior Andy Young would come in and pick up his third and fourth hits of the season, scoring two runs. Four bench players would come in during the game, along with three pitchers.
Junior Randy Dalrymple picked up the start, going three plus innings giving up one unearned run on five hits. He exited when he could no longer locate his fastball. Brandon Ritchie came in in relief, pounding the strike zone to shut down the Eagles in five no-hit innings, a big turnaround for the sophomore who has had trouble finding the zone.
By the time freshman submariner Zane Schreiber entered the game, the shadows had grown longer, the innings had grown shorter and Coppin State was on its way to dropping its 35th game of the season and heading back to West Baltimore. With two outs in the top of the ninth, junior Lance Montano stroked a double to the wall in left center, scoring their first run since the third inning.
“I can say that despite it being very brief, that two, three, four hour escape does nothing but good for all the guys,” Reed said.