If the Colonials had gone out to California for a good round of horseshoes, you could say they dominated all week.
The GW baseball team, of course, was not playing horseshoes but baseball in their spring break trip out to California, and dropped three of four games. But they were close, in all but one game – an out here and a timely hit there from coming away with a few wins against what is likely the stiffest competition they will face all year.
“Almost” doesn’t translate to the win/loss column, but it was a week of relative success in the team’s first trip to California since 2000: freshman Robbie Metz once again proved himself as one of the most valuable players on the team, on the mound and at the plate, junior college transfer, Shane Kemp had a “coming out” game in his start and the bats came alive against live, hardball pitching.
After losing their pitchers duel of a game in the eighth inning against Long Beach State Wednesday, the Colonials took on Cal State Northridge in a three game series. GW would go onto drop 2-of-3, winning the middle game 3-2 with Kemp on the mound.
“I think every guy would say they would rather have showed up a little more in bigger situations and played more consistently, but the future of this program is really a bigger picture than just a one game here or one series there,” Ritchie said. “It’s what you gain out of those series. It’s what you take home with it. And it’s how you make an adjustment.”
The one game in the weekend series where they did show up was Saturday’s 3-2 win against CSUN.
Kemp pitched six innings of two-run ball, striking out five and walking two. Ritchie explained it as his big game, working Kemp into the conversation of the three top starters on the team.
The 6-foot-3 righty from Iowa relied on his fastball, giving up his two runs solely in the fifth, when the Matadors scored courtesy of a double, intentional walk and triple. At that point, GW had mustered one hit.
When the Colonials batted in the sixth inning, they scored all three of their runs, which would be good enough for the win. They scratched four singles by four sophomores, including the go-ahead hit by Colin Gibbons-Fly, who had two RBI, one run and two walks in his work as DH this weekend.
The combination of sophomore Eddie Muhl and redshirt senior Craig LeJeune again closed out the game, shutting down the final three innings without letting a runner get on base.
The first game in the series fell apart quickly. Heading into the bottom of the sixth, GW was tied at three runs apiece, having just put up a two spot in the top of the inning.
Junior Bobby LeWarne recorded his first loss of the season, after the sixth inning got away from him and the bullpen. Ritchie said LeWarne had a tough time controlling his pitches, but worked his way to the sixth. He started the inning with a fly out, followed by a single, walk and another walk. The bullpen came in and couldn’t shut it down. By the inning’s end, CSUN scored six runs on four hits, four walks, one stolen base, one wild pitch and one passed ball against four pitchers.
“We got to eliminate the bleeding,” Ritchie said.
After bouncing back for Saturday’s win, the Colonials had a chance to win the series before heading back on a plane to D.C.
GW started the game with two runs in the first inning. Sophomore Joey Bartosic and Metz continued their strong starts to the season in the top two spots in the lineup: Bartosic went 2-5 on the day with two RBI and one run, while Metz went 3-5 with one RBI and two runs.
But as the opposing batters took to the plate, just hours before basketball fans across the country would learn their team’s fates to the Big Dance, the baseball team was mired in some march madness of it’s own.
Walk. Balk. Walk. Walk. A new pitcher, freshman Brady Renner in his first collegiate start, bounced. Sophomore Jacob Williams came in and gave up a walk, scoring a runner. Another run scored on an error by sophomore shortstop Kevin Mahala. Then an RBI single. Next, a sacrifice fly for another RBI. Pop up, out. Another walk. Another run scores via another hit batsman. Finally, a fly out. The inning was over, but the damage was done.
“That’s a tough thing when you go up 2-0 and then you give up three straight walks and the bases are loaded with nobody out,” Ritchie said. “They didn’t even touch the ball. They didn’t even swing the bat.”
GW would rally back, but the bullpen couldn’t hold it to those first five runs, either. The Colonials would finish the game having walked nine batters.
“Regardless of who we’re playing, the strike zone is the strike zone. Regardless of who the hitter is, throwing a strike is throwing a strike,” Ritchie said.
The self-inflicted wounds stung more harshly given the tenor of the competition, but GW’s ability to stay competitive did not go unnoticed. Though the road trip came to an end with three more losses in the Colonials’ record, which sits at 8-5, they almost came away with a win against NCAA Regional team Long Beach State earlier in the week.
“Bottom line is we did something GW hasn’t done in quite a few years, is come out here and play teams of this nature,” Ritchie said. “And we were very competitive.”
Before Atlantic 10 play starts Friday at Saint Joseph’s, the Colonials will have one final tune-up, playing Mount Saint Mary’s on Wednesday at 3 p.m., at home at Tucker Field.