This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon
After Friday’s loss against Massachusetts, in which the baseball team blew a three-run lead and ruined a strong start from senior Aaron Weisberg, head coach Gregg Ritchie remained optimistic for the final two games of an important series.
“I told the guys, ‘Hey, the game throws some mad twists at you man. It comes at you at different angles and sometimes it’s like ooh, you can’t even believe that happened,’” Ritchie said.
On Saturday, the Colonials came out and shut down the Minutemen in a 3-1 win, scoring all three runs in the eighth inning.
Sunday, GW fully redeemed its Friday meltdown, beating UMass on a walk-off single by senior Owen Beightol – part of a three-run ninth inning – to take the series. The win marked the team’s second-straight Atlantic 10 series win.
Confidence grew throughout the weekend series, but on Easter Sunday – in front of a packed crowd – it looked like the Colonials were going to lay an egg.
GW had a 2-0 lead after three innings thanks to a towering shot from junior Ryan Xepoleas that hit the right-center field scoreboard.
But the Minutemen started to creep back into the game, as sophomore Bobby LeWarne gave up four unanswered runs: two in the fourth, one in the fifth and one in the sixth. By the top of the sevenths, UMass had jumped ahead of GW 4-2.
With the offense unable to string together consecutive hits and score runs late in the game, Ritchie described the dugout feeling as a “lull,” adding that it felt “almost like deflation.” The second-year head coach tried talking to his ballclub in an effort to remind his players to settle down and have fun playing the game.
“I said, ‘Hey look, the game throws some funny twists at you. It’s going to be the team that stays the most mentally tough down the stretch,’” Ritchie said. “‘What I want you to do, come hell or high water, no matter how this game ends, that the self pity stops and the focus and the fun of playing the finish to this game begins.’”
In the ninth, every member of the team played their part to spark a rally. Players hung over the railing at the top step of the dugout to heckle the UMass pitcher. At the plate, patient hitters were told to take pitches until their counts drew two strikes, helping to load the bases and eventually walk in one run with one out.
The only player without the take sign, however, was freshman Bobby Campbell.
The young third baseman had been working all week, preparing for the breaking ball opposing teams once threw to get ahead of him in the count. With the count at 3-1 in Campbell’s ninth-inning at-bat, the right-hander slammed a breaking ball into left field, scoring the game-tying run.
Following Campbell was Beightol: GW’s cleanup hitter. Beightol fell behind in the count early 0-2, but eventually worked the count even and lined the next pitch right to the third baseman.
“I knew I hit it really hard but I hit it right to him, so I thought it was going to be a double play,” Beightol said. “But then when it hit him in the chest I knew we were going to win.”
The winning run came across and the team mobbed Beightol over at first base to celebrate the win – and more importantly – the chance to be back in the mix for a playoff hunt.
Friday saw a 4-1 GW lead squandered to a 5-4 loss, under an uncharacteristic blown save by senior Colin Milon. Molin, who received the Warren Fulton award before Sunday’s game, gave up three runs and was tagged with the loss. Weisberg, who started Friday’s game, finished with a line of 7.1 innings, five strikeouts and three earned runs on 10 hits. Beightol led the Colonials going 3-4 at the plate with two runs scored. Freshman Kevin Mahala drove in two runs on the day.
Saturday, the Colonials rebounded with a 3-1 win. Sophomore Jacob Williams earned his fourth win of the season, throwing eight innings, while allowing two runs on eight hits. He was efficient with 95 pitches, one strikeout and two walks. Campbell came up with the big hit in the eighth to score two of his fellow freshman teammates, Joey Bartosic and Maahla.
In Sunday’s 5-4 win, LeWarne didn’t have his best stuff, but worked through 5.1 innings. He gave up 11 hits and allowed four runs on 93 pitches. LeWarne’s toughest stretch came in the fourth inning when he gave up two runs and was hit with a come-backer on the heel of his glove hand.
“My change up wasn’t on today but [I] just [just kept] battling,” LeWarne said. “As long as you’re in the zone it usually works out. I’m just glad Eddie [Muhl] saved my ass and got a ‘W’ for us.”
Muhl came in and finished the game, earning both the win and recognition from his coach, who said it was a “big moment of growth.”