This post was written by Hatchet reporter Sean Hurd.
In a season that saw a 12-game win streak and program-record 27 wins, the once-sizzling Colonials finished their year with a whimper Thursday.
In a rematch of its first-round loss, GW fell 8-3 in an elimination game to Saint Louis, ending its Atlantic 10 tournament run on just the second day. The game marked the Colonials’ fifth loss in their last six games played.
The loss, ending a season that saw the Colonials rack up several individual accomplishments, also put GW out of reach of matching its finish last year, when it reached the conference title game against UMass.
GW faced an uphill climb the entire game against a Billikens team that was also fighting for their tournament lives after losing earlier in the day to top-ranked Saint Joseph’s. Junior Courtney Martin surrendered a leadoff single in the first inning to Saint Louis centerfielder Jessica Buschjost, who eventually was driven in by a two-out double from first baseman Kelsey Biggs, giving the Billikens an early 1-0 lead.
Martin seemed to settle down, not allowing a single hit in the second and third innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth. After walking the leadoff batter, and allowing an ensuing double, Billikens’ shortstop Jessica Van Nostrand hit a double to left, which, after a throwing error by GW, scored two runs to increase Saint Louis’ lead to 3-0. After the play, head coach Stacey Schramm had seen enough, and inserted freshman Meghan Rico as a reliever with a Saint Louis runner on third.
The hot start from Saint Louis confirmed Schramm’s fears.
“St. Louis is really hot right now, they are playing really well, so that kind of made me a little bit nervous. But at this point its about how well we play and not about our opponents,” she said.
Martin left the game having pitched three innings giving up four runs, three earned, on four hits, while striking out three Billikens’ hitters.
After a throwing error by Rico allowed the Saint Louis runner to score and increase its lead to 4-0, Rico retired the side and escaped the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Colonials finally worked an opportunity to get on the scoreboard. After centerfielder Autumn Taylor reached first base on a fielder’s choice, and subsequently stole second, catcher Samantha Dos Santos walked to the plate. Dos Santos lined a single to left, allowing Taylor to round third and head for home, but Saint Louis left fielder Lindsay Friedman cleanly fielded the ball, and threw a perfect seed to the Saint Louis catcher who successfully tagged a sliding Taylor out at the plate.
It was the kind of near-miss that has defined GW’s past week, which also saw the team surrender its top seed in the tournament after losing last weekend’s final regular season series.
“Offensively we couldn’t get anything going, and we couldn’t get into a good offensive rhythm,” Schramm said. “I think [the team] probably did press at that point. They saw St. Louis score in the first inning and we’re having trouble scoring runs right now. I’m sure it felt like ‘ok our backs are against the wall and that’s a lot of pressure.”
St. Louis tacked on an additional run in the fifth due to a bases loaded single by Van Nostrand , stretching its lead to 5-0.
After failing to produce runs for two straight innings after their leadoff hitters reached base, the Colonials found flashes of offense from some unlikely sources. The bottom of the fifth inning started with a pinch-hit at-bat by junior Chelsea Curcio, who only had 10 total at bats all season. Curcio sparked a GW rally with a double to right, her first extra base hit of her career. Curcio was followed by senior second baseman Julie Orlandi, who singled to right, moving Curcio over to third. Orlandi went a perfect 3-for-3 on the day.
With runners on the corners, GW’s second pinch-hitter of the inning, senior Kristi Saporito, came through with her own single to right field, scoring Curcio and advancing Orlandi to second. Following the base knock by Orlandi, Schramm sent up the third pinch-hitter of the inning, freshman Morgan Matetic, who was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for the Colonials with no outs.
With the Colonials threatening a big offensive inning, Billikens head coach Christy Connoyer decided to pull Kneib and hand the ball off to Brianna Lore, who earned the win against the Colonials in Wednesday’s game.
Lore, who has been solid all tournament, was able to contain the Colonials, successively retiring the heart of the GW lineup and only inducing two RBI groundouts by Taylor and sophomore Victoria Valos. By inning’s end, the Colonials were only able to cut the lead to two, now trailing 5-3.
But it was all Saint Louis from that point on. Lore pitched great for her club, allowing only a single hit in her 2 1/3 innings of relief. The first five hitters in the Colonials’ lineup struggled mightily against Billiken pitching, going a combined 1-14 on the day.
GW simply had no answer for a hot Billikens’ ballclub who say eight out of its nine starting players have at least one hit against the Colonials. Saint Louis tacked on three insurance runs in the top of the seventh, cementing their 8-3 victory and sending the Colonials packing. Rico finished the game giving up four runs on eight hits in four innings of play.
After the game, Schramm reminded her team that their season wouldn’t be defined by the outcome of today’s ballgame and tried to emphasize the successful season her team had. The Colonials finish the season with a record of 27-23.
“We just didn’t have a great weekend, we didn’t play our best,” Schramm said. “We can’t hang our heads because of this last game. You have to look at the whole picture now that the season is over. I told the seniors how much they meant to the program and I told the rest of the team that it’s up to us to raise the bar even higher next year.”