As regular-season conference play arrives in Williamsburg with the first gust of warm spring air, William and Mary (14-7) has shown itself to be two starkly different teams.
The first is the error-prone, offensively lacking team that lost to Rhode Island 10-5 Wednesday night at Plumeri Park. To its credit, that particular Tribe team has only shown up a couple times this season, but when it takes the field, the contrast is glaring.
Take Wednesday for example, when the College committed four errors and was no-hit into the fourth inning. It was a night where the Tribe lacked that familiar fire, according to Head Coach Frank Leoni.
“I thought we were a bit flat. We certainly did not have the familiar energy that we’ve grown accustomed to so far this year,” Leoni said. “I told them that we just need to learn from this game and get back to work in practice Thursday.”
The Tribe was hindered by another poor outing from freshman starter Matt Wainman. Wainman gave up five runs — four of them earned — over three and one third innings and failed to get past the fourth inning in his third-straight start.
“He’s been leaving the ball up,” Leoni said. “But one of Matt’s best attributes is his competitiveness, so I fully expect him to rebound soon.”
Junior shortstop Derek Osteen went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and senior catcher Chris Jensen had two hits after coming in as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning.
The Tribe has been two teams this season though. And the one that has taken the field far more often was the team that showed up Tuesday — the team which beat Rhode Island 5-2.
That team has received quality starts from its starting pitching all season, such as the one sophomore starter Cole Shain turned in against the Rams. Shain went six innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out three.
“It was a good mix of pitches, which kept [their hitters] off balance,” Shain said.
That Tribe team, the one that ran off five straight wins before Tuesday’s loss, also picks up key hits in tight situations.
Freshman centerfielder Ryan Brown drove in the big run Tuesday, a half-inning after he botched a fly ball in centerfield to tie the game in the top of the seventh.
Brown — whose misplay was his first error of the season — found himself behind in the count 1-2, but the freshman fouled off consecutive pitches before lifting a fly ball to center to score junior second baseman Jonathan Slattery from third base and give the Tribe a 3-2 lead.
“That’s what [Brown] is all about,” Leoni said. “He’s not the type of kid that gets caught up and weighs himself down. He stays with it, stays positive, stays in the moment and tries to do something positive to help.”
Sophomore first baseman Tadd Bower followed with a two-run homerun to right-centerfield, and freshman reliever John Farrell gave up one run in the last three innings to get the save.
“Tadd did exactly what he’s supposed to do when he gets that opportunity,” Leoni said. “He looks for one pitch in one spot and, if he gets it, he’s supposed to unload on it. And that’s exactly what he did.”
With Delaware coming to Williamsburg this weekend, the question now becomes which team the Tribe will be on Friday when it opens up conference play.
“I expect that we will be consistent with our approach from the time we take pre-game [warm-ups] throughout every pitch during the game,” Leoni said. “Our focus just got away from us [Wednesday].”