This post was written by Hatchet reporter Josh Solomon.
Senior center fielder Ryan Hickey, shading to left field on a defensive shift, sprinted for a line drive in the right-center field gap. He laid out for the ball, momentarily catching it in flight, but as his body landed on the turf field, the ball popped out and rolled away. Two runs scored and Xavier’s lead grew bigger.
It was that kind of day where even a calculated shift seemed to go in the Musketeers’ favor in GW’s 8-2 loss in the first round of the double-elimination Atlantic 10 tournament in Charlotte, N.C..
“That’s why it’s baseball, because the guy did something he maybe wouldn’t do eight out of 10 times or nine out of 10 times,” associate head coach Tom Sheridan said.
The game was not easy for fifth-seed GW, which hurt itself itself with three errors they committed in the first inning, leading to three Xavier runs and squelching the momentum the Colonials had built with a red-hot final three weeks of their season.
Junior Luke Staub battled from the beginning, but started the game with a leadoff walk. Staub then struck out the next batter, but the baserunner stole second on the third strike. The next batter cracked a double to right field, driving in a run. Staub then ran the count full to next batter before hitting him.
The wheels then came off in the inning. Usually reliable second baseman Justin Albright booted a weak ground ball off the heel of his glove as he tried to make the play too to turn a double play. Another fielding and throwing later, and GW was in a 3-0 hole.
The Colonials’ defensive lapses looked even worse during their turn at bat, when Xavier put on a defensive clinic. Following a strikeout looking to start the inning, freshman Eric Kalman swung at the first pitch in the at bat, sending, Xavier right fielder Mitch Elliott racing towards foul territory. He approached the belt-high bullpen fence, leaned over and caught the slicing foul ball as his momentum took him over the fence, landing on his back but holding on.
After Hickey’s near-diving catch on the outfield shift, Staub, GW’s ace, kept his ball club in the game though through his six innings, giving up four hits and three earned runs.
“How you handle adversity on the mound really defines who you are as a pitcher. You really cant ride the highs and lows. You got to stay with the mental approach the entire course of the game,” Staub said.
Freshman Jacob Williams came in to pitch the seventh, but quickly worked his way into trouble. Senior Brian Derner came in with two outs to stop the bleeding but gave up a two-run single to bring the total to eight runs for Xavier.
It was not until the ninth inning in which the Colonials threatened, as senior Tyler McCarthy prevented a shutout by ripping a ball up the middle, outside the reach of the diving second baseman to score two runs. Xavier secured the final out, nailing down the 8-2 loss for GW.
“Naturally we are disappointed that we didn’t do as well as we would’ve like to but I know that guys will be determined, we’ll come back tomorrow and we’ll play hard and we’ll see what happens. We’re here for a reason because we had a good season,” Sheridan said.
GW will play Thursday night against one of four potential teams: two-seeded Charlotte, third-seeded Rhode Island, sixth-seeded La Salle or seventh-seeded Richmond. The winner of that game will continue and the loser will be out of the tournament in the double-elimination format.