College loses games Saturday, Sunday to drop weekend series against North Carolina-Wilmington

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Tribe baseball looses two consecutive matches against North Carolina-Wilmington. PHOTO COURTESY // TRIBE ATHLETICS.

William and Mary put up two runs in each of the final two games of its weekend series Saturday and Sunday, but neither effort was enough to best Colonial Athletic Association foe North Carolina-Wilmington, as the Seahawks (19-8, 4-2 CAA) put down the Tribe (10-18, 1-5 CAA) twice to take the weekend series 2-1.

Friday, the College put up five runs before the Seahawks could get on the board, giving it an early lead that it held comfortably for the rest of the match on the way to its single win of the weekend, a 7-3 victory.

“It definitely helps getting a few runs in that first inning and just jumping out to the lead,” senior outfielder Ryan Hall said. “Definitely helps being able to play with a lead, pitch with a lead, hit with a lead.”

The Tribe once again opened scoring in the game Saturday, when an early tally from Hall in the bottom of the third put the College up 1-0. Both teams were held off the board for the next two innings, until freshman infielder David Hogarth put up another run to put the Tribe up 2-0 going in to the top of the sixth.

Junior pitcher Bodie Sheehan threw a stellar first five innings, in which he only allowed three hits and saw no runs. But the Seahawks finally cracked him in the sixth, when he gave up three hits — two singles and a double — that got a UNCW runner home, cutting the Tribe’s lead to 2-1. The College attempted to find an answer in the bottom of the inning, getting junior outfielder Owen Socher to second with only one out on the board, but neither of the College’s final two batters could find a clean hit, sending the Tribe into the seventh still up by only a single run.

After a scoreless seventh inning, things fell apart for the Tribe in the top of the eighth. It looked like the inning would be another brief one as the first UNCW batter struck out, but the next two players up to bat each hit doubles, getting one runner home to tie the score at 2-2. The next batter intentionally walked. The next hit, a single, sent another runner home, giving UNCW the lead at 3-2 — all with just one out still on the board. A groundout got yet another UNCW runner to third, and then another walk loaded the bases for the Seahawks.

The College paused, regrouped and switched out pitchers to put bullpen veteran senior Charlie Fletcher on the mound, who calmly struck out the final batter. But the damage had already been done, and the Tribe was down by one heading into the final inning. Although Fletcher kept the Seahawks from finding any hits in the top of the ninth, the Tribe, which has struggled to come back from deficits this season, couldn’t get any closer than a double from junior infielder Jason Waldman to tie the game up. The final score of 3-2 stood. Sheehan recorded his third loss to go 1-3 on the season.

“I think one thing [to improve on] is just the energy early, and trying to continue that throughout the entire game,” junior infielder Zach Pearson said. “Another big thing is just confidence, just going up there knowing and expecting what you’re gonna do and that you’re gonna have success.”

The College looked to redeem itself, win the weekend series and pick up an always-important conference win in the third game of the series Sunday. But the Tribe didn’t get the start it was looking for when a homer from UNCW catcher Ryan Jeffers put the College down 1-0 in the top of the first.

“I think there’s some stat that says we’re [5-1] when we score in the first inning, and I think that’s a really big indicator of how our season’s been going,” Zach Pearson said. “Scoring in the first inning is a big energy-getter. I think when we are able to do that, as our stats have shown, it’s helped with the confidence of the whole team. That needs to be a goal for us every single game.”

The Tribe found an answer to the Seahawks’ early tally in the bottom of the third, when Zach Pearson got all the way to third on a triple, and was then helped home on a sacrifice fly from Hall to tie the score at 1-1. The College’s relief was short-lived, though, as the Seahawks put up four runs in the next three innings to put the College down 5-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

Junior catcher Hunter Smith put his fifth home run of the season over the wall of Plumeri Park in the bottom of the sixth to cut the UNCW lead to 5-2. But that was it for the Tribe’s comeback attempt. One hit in the last three innings was not enough to save the College, and the Seahawks added on two more to pad their lead and ultimately defeat the College 7-2.

Despite the 7-3-win Friday, the Tribe conceded the series to UNCW. Freshman pitcher Jacob Haney recorded his fifth loss Sunday to go 1-5 on the season. Hall, Zach Pearson and senior outfielder Brandon Raquet were the only players to tally multiple hits in a game Saturday and Sunday, as College batters struggled to find offense.

“We feel good about our bullpen at this point. We got some guys, we got some offense and some depth,” head coach Brian Murphy said. “I think our defense has been good and our pitching has been adequate. It’s kept us in games. We just haven’t swung out bats enough to give us any margin for error in winning them.”

With this loss, the College falls to 10-18 on the season, while it has still tallied only one victory in conference play, sitting at 1-5 after last weekend’s sweep by Charleston and this weekend’s loss to the Seahawks. It faces its next CAA opponent Friday in another home series.

“This weekend we got Towson at home, that’s another important weekend,” Murphy said. “Hopefully we can gain some traction and try to play well for an extended period, because that’s obviously what we’re going to need at this point.”

The Tribe is currently seeded last in the conference, something that could change with some wins at home next weekend.

“Every conference game’s important, just one more win towards the win total,” Zach Pearson said. “Obviously we would’ve liked to get more than that this weekend and last weekend, but every game matters, so we just gotta go with that mindset every single game. It was nice to get one in the win column, finally. But we’re hopefully looking for more next weekend.”

Kevin Richeson contributed reporting.