Call it the Federalist Tribe.
William and Mary scored a three-game sweep of conference-opponent George Mason over the weekend, launching the team to fifth place in the CAA and moving its in-conference record above the .500-mark for the first time this season.
The Tribe (10-13, 5-4 CAA) won in all fashions: behind an offensive assault in an eight-run win Friday, with dominating pitching performances in the weekend games, and with high drama when it won on a walk-off single in the 11th inning Saturday.
“We played really well over the weekend,” head coach Frank Leoni said. “Obviously we pitched really, really well. Those were a couple of very closely-contested pitcher’s duels Saturday and Sunday. I’m very pleased with how our team was able to stick with it.”
The weekend kicked off with a Tribe win over the Patriots by a score of 8-5. Junior starter Matt Davenport was erratic all night — as exemplified by the four Patriot batters he plunked in his six innings of work — and allowed George Mason to jump to a 3-0 lead after two innings.
But the Tribe rallied in the middle innings, scoring one on an RBI-single by freshman third baseman Ryan Lindemuth in the fourth and then putting up a five-spot in the bottom of the fifth. The most damage was done by junior first baseman Tad Bower, who launched a three-run homerun deep into the Williamsburg night over the right-field fence, putting the College up 6-3.
But the Patriots wouldn’t go quietly, tagging Davenport for two more in the sixth. But that would be it for Mason, as sophomore reliever Brett Koehler delivered a masterful performance, retiring all nine Patriot hitters he faced, and striking out four to secure the win.
Both team’s bats went silent Saturday. Patriot starter Chris O’Grady was dominant, holding the Tribe to just one run on five hits while striking out seven in his six innings. Tribe senior starter Logan Billbrough turned in an excellent outing as well, allowing just one run as well in six innings.
From there, the bullpens took over, and the College’s relief effort was once again led by Koehler, who went three and a third shutout innings, allowing just two base runners and striking out five more. The weekend of heroic relief work earned Koehler CAA co-pitcher of the week honors.
“Koehler was able to come out of the bullpen and just shut down George Mason again,” Leoni said. “We’ve gotten an awesome performance from him the last couple of weeks.”
But once O’Grady came out for Mason after six, the Tribe offense remained at bay for another four innings. Then in the 11th, with the game tied at 1-1, the College broke through. Bower led off with a single, then moved to second on a bunt by Lindemuth. Mason then brought in O’Grady’s brother, T.J. to intentionally walk a batter and then face Tribe junior catcher Chris Forsten, who slapped a walk-off single, ending the game at 2-1 in 11 innings.
“It was dramatic all the way until the final slide at the plate,” Leoni said of Saturday’s nail-biter. “The throw looked like it beat our runner, but it took a bad hop.”
Figurative brooms in hand, the Tribe came back Sunday to secure the sweep. But as another pitcher’s duel developed, the Patriots again proved a difficult opponent. Mason’s offense knocked on the door all night — tallying eight hits and taking two walks against College junior starter Cole Shain — and finally broke through for a run in the sixth to take a 1-0 lead. But that was all Shain would allow, safely working his way through trouble for most of the night.
“[Cole Shain] did not have his best stuff but he willed his way through six innings,” Leoni said.
But finally the Tribe got on the board in the seventh, when sophomore center fielder Ryan Brown drove in Forsten on a double down the left field-line. Then in the eighth, the Tribe took the final lead of the game on RBIs from Bower and Lindemuth. The game finished with the College in front 3-2.
Once again, the win went to the bullpen, this time to sophomore reliever Ryan Williams.
The sweep accelerates the team’s climb out of the early-season hole it dug itself. The Tribe has now won eight of its last 10 games. Still, Leoni doesn’t think the team has turned the proverbial corner.
“We’re still in the slow start. We’ve just started to get going,” he said. “I’m a lot happier than I was two weeks ago but we certainly haven’t accomplished much of anything yet. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played.”