William and Mary did everything it could to erase the memory of a painfully close conference-series loss Sunday, scoring six runs in the first inning en route to a 17-4 manhandling of visiting Richmond Tuesday.
Led by freshman first baseman Michael Katz, who had his second two home run game against the Spiders this season, going 3 for 4 with seven RBIs and two runs, The Tribe (23-11) effectively put the game out of reach by the end of third, slugging its way to six runs in the first, five more in the second and three in the third, good for a 14-0 lead going into the fourth. (More after the gallery.)
“There was definitely a lot of frustration coming off the weekend,” Katz said. “Those were two winnable games and today we came out really focused all the way down the lineup.”
All but two College starters picked up hits on the day while each starter reached base safely at least once as the Tribe totaled 15 base hits against the Spiders. Junior center fielder Ryan Brown also had a big game in the two-hole, going 3 for 5 and scoring four of the College’s runs.
Brown said that by simple virtue of getting more at bats, the Tribe’s lineup is looking more dangerous by the day.
“It’s midseason, we’ve seen a lot of pitches and we’re confident, we’re playing loose,” he said. “We know we had it in us, it’s just a matter of getting it done.”
Richmond also provided some assistance, helping the Tribe with sloppy play in the first inning. After junior second baseman Kevin Nutter singled and reached second on an error, Brown moved him to third with a base hit. Brown then stole second and took third on a wild pitch that scored Nutter. After senior right fielder Stephen Arcure walked, Katz cleared the bases with a three-run shot to give the College a 4-0 advantage. But the Tribe wasn’t done there. Senior left fielder Tadd Bower drew a walk and sophomore third baseman Ryan Lindemuth followed with a single up the middle. After the two runners advanced a base each on a ground out, senior catcher Sean Aiken scored them both on a single into center field.
The Tribe’s pitchers also were able to keep Richmond’s bats from climbing back into things. Senior starting pitcher Cole Shain improved to 4-2 on the year, going five innings and allowing one earned run on two hits and two walks.
When the Spiders finally got on the board with a run in the top of the fourth, the College — almost on cue — immediately responded with Katz’s second home run of the night, a three-run blast to deep right-center in the bottom of the inning, putting the College up 17-1.
“In warm-ups, the wind was blowing out to right field pretty well, so I was just trying to stay through the ball and square it up,” Katz said. “I got two curveballs that were up in the zone [on the home runs].”
Leoni was pleased to see such impressive production in the four-hole from a freshman.
“He’s only a freshman but has games like this where he looks like a veteran. It’s a neat thing to watch,” Leoni said.
Aside from the eighth, when Richmond roughed up a wild freshman relief pitcher J.T. Castner for three runs (two earned), the College’s pitching staff made it through nine innings nearly unblemished. The Spiders finished with just eight hits and two walks. Nutter, Lindemuth, freshman designated hitter Josh Smith and Aiken all logged two base hits for the College.
The win does nothing for the Tribe’s conference standing, but it could give the team a boost heading into a tough road series at CAA-foe Georgia State this weekend. The Panthers are two games behind the sixth-placed Tribe. While sixth may sound low, the College is just a game back from a cluster of three teams tied for third.
“We’re in a good position. We’re right in the thick of things and right where we want to be,” Brown said. “We just have to win series, not worry about getting a sweep. Just win every series and we’ll put ourselves in a good position.”
The series-opener with the Panthers is Friday.