This post was written by Hatchet senior staff writer Josh Solomon.
BRONX, N.Y. – As the sun continued to set behind the gothic Keating Hall bell tower, shadows creeped across Fordham’s baseball field, left to right.
The batter was quickly covered in shadows at the Atlantic 10 Championship. Soon the same for the pitcher’s mound. It was starting to get dark in the GW dugout too.
The bell began to chime. It was 7 o’clock and it was the sixth inning of a rematch with No. 2 VCU.
Despite plenty of drama Thursday afternoon, the season was seemingly over. The Colonials were up to their fourth pitcher of the day, with two others warming up in the pen, down seven runs.
An elimination game had gone ghost on a group ballplayers who busted out for six runs the night prior.
Despite eventually dropping the contest 12–4, it was then, in the sixth, when GW rallied.
The team displayed resilience, even showed off its season motto – grit and gratitude.
It was what head coach Gregg Ritchie would have liked to see – but it was not what the team’s manager saw, at least not in person.
A leadoff home run by junior Bobby Campbell, a double down the left field line to the warning track, a base hit up the middle to score another run. The quick rally was followed by three outs and no more runs. GW would not score again all game.
Ritchie would not see what happened from his usual helm at the team’s dugout steps, a place in which the team would look toward as their pirate ship, in a season embracing the rolling rhythms of the drama-filled Pirates of the Caribbean movies. At home, GW would play the movie’s noteworthy soundtrack when the team scored a run.
Ritchie was thrown out of the game, way out, down the left field line. The third base umpire gave Ritchie the first ejection of his career as a head coach at GW.
In his fourth season, he had apparently come close at least once before this year. This game though was against a VCU team that GW had lost to one day ago in a first round matchup and had lost two-out-of-three to at home during the season.
GW was already trailing 6–2 in the third inning. A starting pitching decision did not pan out well for Ritchie, electing to start sophomore Robbie Metz over his two other usual starters, neither of whom had been pitching well of late, while Metz had barely started all season-long.
Metz gave up two runs in a challenging top of the first inning. The pitches were up and VCU was hitting.
“Robbie hadn’t gotten to pitch a lot. It’s tough,” catcher, senior Matthieu Robért said. “Guys step up and do what they can and that’s all they can do.”
Robért had catching duties in the final two games of the tournament, in lieu of the season’s usual starter, sophomore Brandon Chapman. Ritchie quickly noted after the Saint Louis win that he highly valued his senior’s leadership on the field as a key to the team’s success.
Ritchie would then called on one of the other potential starters, sophomore Brady Renner. He gave up a four-spot in the second, including a three-run home run to almost an identical spot in the left center bleachers as Mahala did to put away Saint Louis last night. Both swings had given their respective teams their sixth run.
With one out in the third, sophomore Mark Osis, who had a breakout season, singled his way on. Then A-10 All Conference First Team first baseman, junior Bobby Campbell came to bat. He looked down at third base coach, Dave Lorber for the signs. No bunt, no hit-and-run, the call on the first pitch allowed Campbell to swing.
Campbell swung and hit the ball off his foot in the batter’s box, a typical foul ball call. The home plate umpire did not call it. Campbell, assuming that was the call, stayed put in the batter’s box. The VCU third baseman who fielded the ball threw to first for the out.
Campbell put up his arms in question. The GW faithful in the stands loudly questioned. Ritchie questioned. He asked for a meeting of the umpires. The umpires met. The umpires decided the play call on the field stood and Campbell was out.
The next batter was at the box and the VCU pitcher was ready to toe the rubber. Then Ritchie left the dugout. He went to the third base umpire, who likely had the best view of the ball off of Campbell’s foot. About a minute into the conversation, the umpire gave him the hook.
After following the umpire all the way into left field, Ritchie eventually would be brought back to the dugout by Lorber. GW’s head coach was greeted by a dugout on the top step, applauding him as he entered and then exited the ballpark.
At that moment, the team was as loud as they had been all year.
“The guys got fired up,” catcher, senior Matthieu Robért said. “Coach has done a lot for me and the team over the past four years, and that’s just one example of him having our back. I think anything else needs to be said. He has our back and he showed it.”
“I’m really thankful that I have a coach that will do that,” Campbell said. “He’ll fight for us.”
The fight was there but the hitting shoes weren’t always aboard GW’s ship this season. The team would not score a run that inning and bring in just two more in the game in a mini-rally in the sixth inning. VCU would continue to tag on runs.
The 2016 campaign was marked by injuries to pitchers in the preseason and core hitters in the middle of conference play. It was one in which the Colonials had a chance to take a hold of first place and could have missed the playoffs altogether; sometimes the timing was right.
The 2016 campaign had its highs and it had its lows, which amounted to a .500 season – 13-13 in A-10 play.
And the 2016 campaign for GW baseball was supposed to be one to win a conference championship.
A team with two senior starters and a lineup filled with returning juniors and sophomores seemed like a strong combination to win it all. A season will go as a season goes sometimes, and this season went with starting pitching and a streaky lineup, neither of which showed up Thursday night in the Bronx.
As the sun all but vanished, the field flood lights took over, GW poised themselves for an eighth inning rally with a runner on second. The grit and gratitude on display, what Ritchie said the day prior after the team’s win rings loudly.
“A win’s a win. A loss is a loss. You expect to win every single time,” he said. “You want to sweep all the time. You expect to win the ring and the championship. Yeah, you want to go to the World Series. And I feel good all the time.”