This post was written by Hatchet reporter Josh Solomon.
GW gave up 13 runs, surrendered 20 hits and committed three errors Friday in their season-ending loss to Saint Louis.
Ugly numbers, certainly. But despite the onslaught of offense by the Billkens – and the Colonials’ silent bats – GW did not walk away from the Charlotte stadium ashamed.
Instead, the team felt like they beat the odds, winning their first playoff game since 2004 after entering the season as the last-place pick in the 15-team conference and then starting a dreadful 0-9.
The Colonials finished the season winning eight of their last nine games to improve to 15-9 in league play, earning them the fifth seed for postseason play and their best conference finish since 2005.
All of this ultimately led to the Colonials’ exit from the A-10 tournament as a final four team. They were in the mix with the top teams from the division, including a Saint Louis team that is believed to make the College World Series regardless of whether they win and qualify for it.
The Billikens were the number one seed, but were upset early in their matchup with fourth-seeded Xavier in the second round, the same Musketeers team that upended GW in their first round matchup. The chain of events sent Saint Louis into the losers’ bracket in this double elimination format, setting them up with an eventual game against the streaking Colonials.
GW was fresh off a walk-off win earlier in the day against three-seeded Rhode Island. Ritchie elected to go with senior Justin Albright to start the game, instead of an array of other arms, including freshman Max Kaplow, one of the possible starters.
Albright, the team’s MVP, has led the Colonials all season, with the team often hinging on his performance at the plate. Albright normally found himself on the mound during middle-of-the-week games as an extra arm who could match up and work hard against other teams’ mid-week starters.
But the graduating senior was not able to match up well with Saint Louis’ potent offense. A leadoff double down the left-field line started the trouble for Albright and the Colonials and before GW could even think that this game was going to be a tight one, the Billkens had bopped the ball all around the GW outfield. Four doubles, five runs, five hits, one error and one out later, Albright was bounced from the game.
GW did fight back after the seven-run onslaught, scoring one run after senior Tyler McCarthy singled to right center to lead off the inning, took second on a wild pitch and then scored on a single by freshman Eric Kalman.
The Colonials would tack on just one more run in the fourth inning, courtesy of a junior Owen Bieghtol leadoff double and sacrifice fly to right field from senior Derek Brown, but the Billikens would tack on even more themselves.
Ritchie threw in several pitchers to piece together the game. Luke Staub finished up the first inning, followed by freshman Bobby LeWarne in the second.
Kaplow finally found his way to the mound in the third inning. He had yet to pitch in a league game since April 6 after developing arm fatigue, following throwing two consecutive complete games earlier in the season.
His first inning back was not as sharp as he might have wanted it to be though, giving up two runs on three hits, including one wild pitch to score a run. He settled down over his next two innings, giving up no hits and only rendering one base runner off a misplayed ball in the infield.
Three other pitchers came in to finish up, making it a grand total of seven Colonial pitchers, to the Billkens’ one, who threw a complete game with seven strikeouts.
GW finally got to Saint Louis’ pitcher in the ninth – sort of. Singles from Brown and Kalman and a walk set up a RBI single for Albright, his only hit in the game. They pushed across just one more on an error, before the game ultimately ended in their 13-4 defeat.
Saint Louis will move onto to play Xavier, the same team that beat both GW and the Billkens earlier in the tournament. They will also most likely find themselves in even further postseason ball at the College World Series.
As for the Colonials, the loss wraps up a 26-32 season, with a most impressive 15-9 record in the A-10 that saw them jump up from a last-place finish in 2012. They rode their 11 graduating seniors to their first A-10 championship appearance since 2006, and their first postseason win since 2004.
With several freshmen having started in the field this season, and 20 recruits coming in Ritchie’s first recruiting class, there’s one thing for sure: They won’t be picked to finish last next year.