Defensive woes cost the Georgetown baseball team at home this past weekend, as they were swept in a three games series against Xavier to open Big East play. The Hoyas (12-16, 0-2) fell 15-6 on Friday against the Musketeers (16-13, 3-0) before losing 8-2 and 11-6 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
After submitting strong performances in his last two starts, sophomore pitcher Matt Smith struggled on Friday, allowing nine runs — six earned ¬— in only five-plus innings of work.
Smith was given a 6-3 lead to work with after the Hoyas scored five runs, highlighted by a three-run double by junior shortstop Ryan Busch in the fourth inning. But Smith blew the lead, allowing two runs in fifth and four more in the sixth before being pulled without recording an out in the frame.
“He was up in the zone,” Head Coach Pete Wilk said. “When you’re throwing the ball up in the zone in this league, you’re going to get hit. And that’s what happened.”
But of the nine runs Smith allowed, only six were earned. Georgetown struggled defensively against Xavier as sophomore third baseman Eric Webber made three errors behind Smith, and Busch added another. Overall, the Hoyas committed 10 errors in the three games this weekend, much to the disapproval of Wilk.
“That was the story of the weekend,” Wilk said. “Until we make routine plays, we’re going to continue to get results like we are. We have to keep working.”
Saturday’s game was more of the same for Georgetown, as two errors led to three unearned runs in the 8-2 loss. Freshman pitcher David Ellingson continued to struggle, giving up five runs and throwing three wild pitches. In an otherwise mediocre day for the offense, Busch continued to hit well, picking up two base hits. The junior collected seven hits, scored four runs and knocked in three RBIs on the weekend.
“[Busch] had an outstanding weekend,” Wilk said. “He’s really swinging the bat well. He was hurt most of last year, and he’s finally gotten healthy, and it shows in his results.”
Sunday’s loss was the biggest letdown of the weekend, as the defensive once again hampered the Hoyas. Juniors Will Brown and Matt Hollenbeck and sophomore Tim Davis combined to allow 11 runs, only four of which were earned.
Georgetown found itself in a 5-1 hole after allowing four unearned runs in the sixth, but it battled back to tie the game at 5-5 in the seventh. Senior first baseman and reigning Big East Player of the Week Steve Anderson and sophomore designated hitter Nick Collins were key to the comeback. Each picked up two hits and an RBI in the game. Wilk has been very happy with his two big hitters this season and is excited to see what they will do the rest of conference play.
“I want them to keep going what they’re doing,” Wilk said. “They have been exceptional. Unlike some people who try to do much, they’ve been excellent.”
The 5-5 score line did not hold for long however, as Xavier scored three runs in the top of the eighth and three more in the ninth. The Hoyas loaded the bases with just one out in the ninth, but they only managed to score one run on an RBI walk by junior pinch hitter A.C. Carter.
But the big story was once again defense. Sticking with the theme of the weekend, all three runs scored in the eighth were unearned because of errors by freshman second baseman Jake Kuzbel and sophomore right fielder Evan Ryan. It doesn’t take a sabermatrician to figure it out: If the Hoyas want to have more success against the rest of the Big East, they need to clean up their fielding.
“We’ve been giving up 90 feet defensively, and it’s been killing us,” Wilk said. “Whether we’re walking kids, hitting kids or making too many errors, it’s the story of the game. If we can control 90 feet defensively, we would have won 2 of those 3 games. It’s not even close. But we have not defended 90 feet well and that is why we went 0-3.”
Georgetown’s next game is Wednesday against George Mason.