Things have not been looking up lately for the College of William and Mary; but, if there was one thing the Tribe learned from their 5-11 record coming into the weekend, it’s that the game is never over until it’s over.
The Tribe (6-13, 1-2 CAA) lost 2 out of 3 this weekend to Georgia State University. Friday and Saturday night’s games extended into extra innings.
TRIBE 9, GEORGIA STATE 8
Saturday, the squad’s 15 inning win was the longest game ever played in Plumeri Park history. It was the fourth time the Tribe has gone into extra frames this season, evidence of the “never say die” attitude of Head Coach Frank Leoni’s young squad.
“This is the type of win that can turn our season around,” sophomore pitcher Logan Billbrough said after Saturday’s victory. “I know we haven’t gotten off to a hot start, but conference play is what matters, and that’s what we’re trying to win.”
Billbrough (1-1) pitched the final six innings of the ballgame for the victory, holding the Panthers scoreless after initially giving up 2 runs in the tenth.
Pitchers senior Jeremy Neustifter, sophomore Tim Norton, freshman Jay McCarthy and Billbrough combined to keep the College’s offense within striking distance. Although the Tribe has scored 22 fewer runs than their opponents this season, they were able to plate one more than the Panthers Saturday thanks to freshman outfielder Stephen Arcure’s 15th inning, game-winning RBI single.
“We talked about it on day one in September — that we were going to need everybody’s contribution at some point,” Leoni said. “Today was the epitome of that. My team has been struggling mightily, and nobody quit getting down 6-1, and then getting down by 2 in the tenth. They had every reason to quit, and they didn’t.”
Junior catcher Chris Jensen went 3-6 with 3 runs scored, while senior third baseman Tyler Stampone went 2-6 with 2 doubles.
TRIBE 4, GEORGIA STATE 6
Friday night’s ballgame also went into extra innings, but the Panthers defeated the Tribe in 10 frames. Junior pitcher Kevin Landry (0-2) was the hard-luck loser, going the final four innings in relief of freshman starter Cole Shain. Landry gave up 5 runs, 4 earned, with 2 coming in the eighth after an error in left field by sophomore Derek Osteen.
With runners on first and second, Osteen, making his first collegiate appearance in left field, collided with the fence as he attempted to make the catch on a ball hit by Panthers third baseman, Bradley Logan. The collision jarred the ball loose from Osteen’s glove and, in the ensuing confusion, Osteen failed to relay the ball to the infield in time to beat the lead runner at home. The error was the 33rd of the year for the Tribe.
One batter later, Georgia State catcher Marc Mimault grounded-out to second base with runners on second and third, tying the game at three when a run came in.
“Our margin of error is definitely tighter [due to the fielding issues], there’s no question. It changes the way you try to manage the game,” Leoni said. “We’ve had instances where we’ve given some extra outs in innings and then pitchers get tight. Pitchers are trying to make some perfect pitch.”
Leoni would prove prophetic two innings later when Landry gave up an RBI single, as well as a two-run home run to Mimault. Stampone went 2-4 in the contest and senior shortstop Lanny Stanfield went 1-4 with two RBI.
TRIBE 9, GEORGIA STATE 12
Compared to the two previous games, the rubber-match of the series on Sunday proved anti-climatic as Georgia State clinched the series with the victory.
The College scored 9 runs on 16 hits with a number of players, including senior outfielder Rob Nickle (3-4 with a home run), junior centerfielder Tyler Truxell (2-4 with a double) and freshman catcher Chris Forsten (3-5 with 2 runs scored) breaking out of prolonged offensive slumps that contributed to the Tribe entering the series with a combined batting average of .273.
Freshman pitcher Chris Yates (0-2) got the loss. However, the offensive production, along with the scoreless final two innings pitched by Billbrough and Landry seemed to put the loss in perspective for at least two members of the Tribe.
“It’s not a bad loss at all. We’re definitely starting to get back on track. The hits are starting to come, the fielding’s starting to come,” Forsten said. “[The team’s] definitely come a long ways since the beginning of the season.”
Leoni agreed, noting the lowered expectations due to the team’s slow start.
“Considering all the variables surrounding this particular team, today was an ok game for us,” he said. “Pitchers walked too many guys, got knocked around. We dropped some balls but for this team, the way this team has been playing, this wasn’t so bad.”