Home may be where the heart is, but as the Georgetown baseball team learned on Wednesday, home is not necessarily where the wins come. The Hoyas (2-3) fell to George Mason (4-4) in their home opener at Shirley Povich Field — the team’s distant home field in Rockville, Md. — despite loading the bases with one out and the middle of the batting order coming up in the ninth inning.
Three straight singles from sophomore Ryan Busch, senior Danny Poplawski and senior Justin Leeson — who went 3-for-4 and recorded two doubles — brought the winning run to the plate with the bases loaded in the final frame. Indeed, Georgetown looked poised for a dramatic walk-off win as junior cleanup hitter Steve Anderson came to the plate, but GMU closer John Williams kept his cool, fanning Anderson and forcing junior Christian Venditti to ground out to end the game.
The disappointing conclusion highlighted head coach Pete Wilk’s concern prior to the game that his players were leaving too many on base on offense. In fact, Georgetown recorded seven hits — only one short of George Mason — but stranded 13 players over the course of the game.
“It’s a matter of practice and getting reps,” Wilk said of his team’s offensive struggles. “We haven’t gotten into a seasoned rhythm where we’re swinging a bat every day. It’s been a difficult spring from a weather standpoint, and we keep stalling.”
The Patriots opened the scoring in the top half of the first inning as leadoff hitter Nick Allen scored on a single from Colonial Athletic Association player of the week Tucker Tobin off Georgetown senior starting pitcher Thomas Polus. Polus, who was making his first start of the season, gave up four earned runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings.
The Hoyas responded quickly in the bottom of the first, as Leeson hit a two-out double off Patriots pitcher Tanner Love. After Anderson walked, Venditti stepped up and singled to left center field, scoring Leeson and tying the score.
Despite such an auspicious start on offense, the Hoyas would fail to score again. This anemic offense production could be credited to George Mason’s unorthodox decision to change pitchers at the start of every inning. The Patriots pitched nine players, and Georgetown may have had difficulty to adjust to the changes.
“It is very difficult to get into a rhythm when they throw their entire staff at you, and sometimes it’s a brilliant strategy,” Wilk said. “When you are in a situation where you’re not getting enough swings and you throw in a Johnny All-Staff game, it just makes it that much harder to get a rhythm going.”
The Patriots had no such problems with Polus, as Tobin blasted a two-run home run to give George Mason a 3-1 lead at the top of the third inning. Josh Leemhuis tacked one more on in the fifth with a single off reliever James Heine and Georgetown could not recover from the three-run deficit.
Despite the loss and the team’s offensive struggles, the Hoyas did see positive displays from several key players. Leeson, Georgetown’s top offensive threat, continued his torrid start to the season while Venditti, who struggled in Georgetown’s first three games, went 2-for-5 after hitting a home run in a win against Davidson last weekend. Additionally, the bullpen contributed another outstanding performance, giving up zero earned runs for the second consecutive game. Wilk will undoubtedly hope that his starting pitchers can begin to emulate the performances of his relievers.
Today, Georgetown will head to Port Charlotte, Fla., to participate in the Snowbird Baseball Classic for the entirety of Spring Break. During the weeklong road trip, the Hoyas will play nine times, including games against Air Force on Saturday and Michigan on Sunday.
Though the Hoyas will enter the pivotal Florida trip with a losing record, they hope to return back at .500 and with a better understanding of the team’s strengths.
“We’re going to have to earn every win, because there are very few pushovers on that schedule,” Wilk said. “Hopefully, we can go 5-4 or 6-3. If you told me now that we would go 6-3, I would be ecstatic. I think anything beyond that is unrealistic at this point where we’re at with only five games under our belt.”