This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon.
The Colonials discuss strategy in a game against UMass last season. The Colonials split a double-header against NJIT in this season’s opening on Saturday. | Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet staff photographer
In the 16th inning of ball play at the newly christened Tucker Field at Barcroft Park, a handful of fans stood up to ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’ A few of them stretched and sung. Most remained seated, like the fan draped in a blanket with the faces of three warm teddy bears on it.
Two teams played until everything was numb Saturday at “The Tuck” as GW split a doubleheader against NJIT. Sunday’s game was cancelled due to weather.
The Colonials would take the first game, 5-1 on the strength of a strong start from junior Bobby LeWarne. GW would then fall in the second game, 6-2, unable to keep it close in the bullpen and failing to capitalize on a bases loaded, one-out situation in the bottom of the seventh.
It was a game pitted against two former Colonials, GW head coach Gregg Ritchie, a former All-American, and NJIT head coach Brian Guiliana, who was the captain of his Colonials team his senior year.
“It’s another GW guy getting another program in a better direction,” Ritchie said. “If there’s a good side to it, that would be it. Otherwise, I don’t like losing to anybody at any time. And quite honestly, we should win that game. We have enough ability to win that game.”
The first game was all LeWarne. He went seven comfortable innings for the first win of the season. On 91 pitches, LeWarne gave up one unearned run, struck out six, walked two and allowed three hits – not one coming after the third inning, even in the cold.
“It’s not bad. I’m from Iowa. I’m used to pitching in the cold,” LeWarne said.
The only damage done came in the first, which was the only time the Colonials trailed in the first game.
LeWarne was throwing a little high the whole game, but for the most part didn’t get burned for it. He struck out the NJIT leadoff batter with high heat, but following an infield single that made him give special attention to the runner, LeWarne gave up his hardest hit ball of the game.
The three hitter stroked a liner over the glove of freshman second baseman Robbie Metz which allowed runners to reach second and third safely after the outfielders nearly collided. The next play, a ground ball to sophomore Kevin Mahala left the runner at second hung out to dry, allowing an unearned run to score but effectively ending NJIT’s lone threat in the game.
The Colonials reclaimed the lead quickly in the first inning, scoring two in their half. After a leadoff single up the middle by sophomore Joey Bartosic and a hit and run, infield single by Metz, Ritchie kept forcing the agenda. Bartosic and Metz each scored after a successful double-steal put them both in scoring position.
The Colonials capitalized on two NJIT throwing errors in the following inning to the tune of a run for junior Matthieu Robert, and GW picked up two late insurance runs when senior Ryan Xepoleas knocked one off the high wall in right field to send sophomore Bobby Campbell home and scored himself automatically when the relay throw came in off line and went into the Colonials dugout.
The second cap the Colonials offense didn’t click as well, though GW led until the fourth and Bartosic got a hit in his 16th straight game, dating back to last season, to set a GW record.
“After we scored two runs, bang, bang, the game slowed down when he started to get behind [in the count],” Ritchie said. “The pace and tempo changed and we kind of went into a lull and we allowed them to peck away and all of a sudden burst open.”
Lefty freshman Kevin Hodgson started the game, going four innings, allowing two runs, one earned on five hits, one walk and one strikeout.
Hodgson threw 62 pitches, 39 for strikes in his debut on the bump, throwing with a slow tempo, missing first pitch strikes and getting slightly peppered around by the NJIT hitters.
The bullpen couldn’t do much more.
First to come in was Jacob Williams, who would have started Sunday if the game was not cancelled. In his second inning of work he ran into the trouble in the sixth inning.
A lead off ground rule double eventually scored after the player stole third and scored on a questionable bunt defense play. With the infield in and one out NJIT laid a beautiful bunt down the third base line, which had a small chance of rolling foul, but likely was fair.
Williams picked it up and shoveled it to the catcher not nearly in time for the out, as the go-ahead run scored. A couple other mental errors cost the team runs during the game, including a botched bunt defense play when Hodgson was still in the game.
The bullpen would give up four runs, making it difficult for the Colonials to mount a comeback.
In the seventh, still down two, GW loaded the bases with one out. Metz came to the plate in the middle of a very strong rookie debut, with two hits and one run scored in the first game. He swung at three pitches, fouling the first two and then swung through an elevated strike for the third strike of the at bat.
“The second game is not typical of our normal offense in terms of putting balls in play,” Ritchie said. “That definitely hurt us in situations where we had punch outs. That’s kind of what happens with a couple young guys, punch outs with runners in scoring position.”
Campbell would then take a good first pitch and roll it over to short to end the inning and the Colonials last real threat.
Redshirt senior Craig LeJeune looked in full form in his return back to the mound in the eighth. Following two straight innings of the bullpen yielding a run, LeJeune stopped the bleeding. He struck out his first two batters and retired the side with a fly ball.
GW will resume play Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. against Georgetown at The Tuck.