After a postseason drought that extended far longer than members of Georgetown’s baseball program would have preferred, the Hoyas finally returned to the Big East Tournament for the first time since 1986. Although the 2015 season ended in disappointment, it laid a foundation for future progress.
“I think it was a big step for everybody involved. It’s something we haven’t done in a long time, and I think we earned it. I think it’s a stepping stone to where we want to be almost on a yearly basis,” Head Coach Pete Wilk said.
Georgetown (25-28, 8-10 Big East) clinched its tournament berth on the final day of the regular season. Before the team’s final regular season series against Seton Hall (25-25, 9-9 Big East), it was tied with Butler (23-30, 8-10 Big East) and Villanova (22-28, 7-11 Big East).
Freshman pitcher Kevin Superko’s superb start led the Hoyas, who dropped the first two games of the series, to a 5-2 win in their regular season finale. Superko pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing only one unearned run on three hits and two walks. Senior shortstop Ryan Busch, an All-Big East second team selection, and sophomore designated hitter Joseph Bialkowski led the team with three hits each. Busch had two doubles and drove in two runs, providing significant production at the top of the Georgetown batting order.
Villanova and Butler each lost the final game of their regular seasons, and Georgetown was thus able to advance into the Big East Tournament and end its postseason drought.
In addition to the team’s success, junior catcher Nick Collins was named Big East Player of the Year, becoming the first Hoya to win the award. Collins led the conference with 75 hits and seven home runs, wielding a powerful bat in the middle of Georgetown’s lineup.
“Nick was obviously a huge part of our success. I was thrilled to see him get the honor. I think he earned it,” Wilk said. “I thought he was the best player in the league by far, and it couldn’t happen to a better guy.”
In the first game of the Big East Tournament, Georgetown faced heavily favored top seed St. John’s (39-14, 14-3 Big East) at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Neb. Junior pitcher Matt Smith, an All-Big East first team selection, was extremely effective, throwing eight innings with eight strikeouts, allowing only two runs, one earned.
“I won’t say I was surprised by it, but I was pleased. He threw a great game against a really good lineup, and he’s one of the best guys in the league,” Wilk said.
However, Smith’s efforts were not enough, as the Hoyas fell 2-1 after allowing an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Georgetown scored its only run in the fourth inning, when Collins singled and scored on sophomore third baseman Jake Kuzbel’s double. The score held at 1-1 until the bottom of the eighth, when St. John’s junior center fielder Alex Caruso walked, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a fielder’s choice and scored what proved to be the winning run on an error.
After the loss, the Hoyas moved into the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament to face Seton Hall for the fourth time within a nine-day span. Busch led off the game with a home run, his sixth of the season, but Georgetown was unable to generate any more offense, falling 5-1. Seton Hall’s senior pitcher Anthony Elia was excellent on the mound, throwing a complete game with nine strikeouts and no walks.
“Game two I was a little disappointed in. [We] didn’t play so well, certainly didn’t hit, but I think part of that you have to give credit to the Seton Hall pitcher,” Wilk said.
Busch, Collins and senior first baseman AC Carter added singles later in the game for Georgetown.
Although the Hoyas will lose a few important contributors to graduation, several important players will return in 2016. Collins, if he does not leave for the MLB draft, will return for his final season on the Hilltop. In addition, three of Georgetown’s starters, left fielder Austin Shirley, right fielder Michael DeRenzi and second baseman Chase Bushor, just completed their freshman seasons, giving each of them three more seasons to help the team progress. Kuzbel, Bialkowski and sophomore center fielder Beau Hall are also slated to return.
On the mound, Smith and Superko will return to lead the staff. Sophomore relief pitcher David Ellingson, who was named to the All-Big East second team, will also return, looking to build on a strong season in which he posted a 0.75 ERA with nine saves out of the bullpen.