William and Mary was never swept in a three-game weekend series against a division opponent in 2017. That was part of the reason that it finished the season with an impressive 15-8 record against Colonial Athletic Association rivals.
The 2018 team will not be able to say the same after its comeback in game two of the set fell just one run short. After a weekend of tough battles in enemy territory, the Tribe (8-16, 0-3 CAA) dropped its first CAA series of the season as it went 0-3 against Charleston (19-6, 3-0 CAA).
FRIDAY (GAME 1)
Charleston was the first team to get on the board in the first game of the weekend, as a walk and a hit-by-pitch allowed the Cougars to load the bases in the third inning. A wild pitch from sophomore pitcher Jamie Sara pushed a Charleston runner home, while another run snuck in on a sacrifice bunt.
Sara then rallied to strike out the next batter. He forced a ground out from the final batter, allowing the Tribe to close out the inning down just 2-0. In the fourth inning, the Cougars once again got a runner on third, but the College caught him out at home to keep the deficit at two runs.
After a quick fifth, the College cut into the Cougars’ lead in the sixth, as freshman infielder Matt McDermott claimed two bases on a wild Charleston pitch. He would then score on a sacrifice bunt from junior outfielder Owen Socher to cut the Cougars’ lead to 2-1. Charleston immediately reclaimed the two-run lead in the bottom of the inning, however, when another walk allowed a runner to get on base. His eventual run would bring the home team’s lead to 3-1. The Cougars weren’t finished yet, getting another runner to third after a stolen base and a wild pitch. But Sara managed to strike out the final batter to limit the inning’s damage to just a single run.
Junior infielder Colin Lipke found his way to second in the top of the seventh, but nothing would come of it as the next two College batters up recorded a line out and a ground out, respectively. Relief pitcher senior Charlie Fletcher gave the College another chance to patch up the deficit as he made quick work of the bottom of the seventh, forcing three outs in quick succession. But the Tribe was once again unable to find its way home in the top of the eighth, struggling to get any runner past second base despite two hits.
The deficit continued to climb in the bottom of the eighth. Junior pitcher Nick Butts, the hero of the College’s last win against Eastern Tennessee State, started the inning strong on the mound as he struck out the first Charleston batter. But a single from the next batter spelled danger for the College, and a homer from Ari Sechopoulos notched two more runs for the Cougars, padding their lead to 5-1.
The College needed four runs in the top of the ninth to repair the damage, but it was nowhere to be found. Three Tribe batters couldn’t find a hit, and the game ended quietly for the College, as the Cougars notched 5-1 victory.
SATURDAY (GAME 2, DH)
The Tribe headed into Saturday looking for redemption in the first half of the day’s doubleheader. It found an offensive opportunity right away, getting senior outfielder Ryan Hall to first on a walk. The College got Hall to second base before striking out.
Despite the promising start, Charleston was once again first to draw blood. After the second batter up knocked a double past the Tribe outfield, he got to home on a wild pitch from starting pitcher Bodie Sheehan to open scoring, putting the College down 1-0. Unlike Friday’s game, the College had an immediate answer to the deficit. McDermott, who tallied the lone run for the Tribe in Friday’s loss, put up another run to tie the game at 1-1. The College then had the chance to take its first lead of the weekend as Ryan got to third base, but Hall’s strikeout ended the inning with the score still knotted at 1-1.
Charleston put up two runs in the bottom of the third to reclaim their lead, bringing the score to 3-1. But the College answered back in top of the fifth, when junior Jason Waldman slammed his first home run of the season across the park, batting in three runs and giving the College its first lead of the weekend, 4-3.
But Charleston didn’t let the College lead for long, reclaiming the advantage with a decisive five-run inning in the bottom of the fifth to put the College back down, 8-4. 11 batters faced down two College pitchers, knocking six hits before the inning finally ended on a pop-up.
Despite that crushing fifth inning, the Tribe still had some fight left in it. In the top of the seventh inning, Waldman once again connected for a clutch hit, singling and forcing a throwing error by the pitcher that allowed Hall and Lipke to score. McDermott, another standout in these first two games, then stepped up to bat and hit a single that sent junior catcher Hunter Smith home and cut the Tribe’s deficit to 8-7, all with just a single out on the board. It looked like the College’s comeback was well underway.
The Tribe would fall just short of leveling the score, however, as a strike out and a ground out forced an unceremonious end to the inning, leaving the College still searching for that last tying run.
Although the College held Charleston off the board for the final two innings, they fell just short of tying the game. Junior infielder Zach Pearson got to third base in the top of the eighth, leaving the College just one hit away from tying the match and potentially having a chance to tie the series. The hope was short-lived, as Zach Pearson would never reach home plate.
The match ended with a Tribe strikeout to seal the loss at 8-7. Sheehan, who was named as the CAA Pitcher of the Week earlier this season, would record his first loss to go 1-2 on the season.
SATURDAY (GAME 3, DH)
The College looked to salvage the weekend in the second match of the doubleheader later that day. But no salvation was to be found, as Charleston got four runs on the board before the Tribe managed to get a runner past second base. Down 4-0, the College finally managed to break through in the fifth inning as senior outfielder Craig McLane got on base with a single, eventually scoring on a fly out from Zach Pearson to cut the Charleston lead to 4-1. Yet again, the Cougars had an immediate answer, getting a run out of senior pitcher Michael Toner to extend their lead to 5-1.
Although Toner struck out the next batter after the run, both Charleston runners on the field stole bases during the pitch. Sophomore pitcher Wade Strain came in to strike out the final batter and maintain the four-run deficit going into the top of the sixth.
The Tribe put up another run in the sixth, as a double from Lipke got him on base where he eventually scored on a passed ball to cut the Cougars’ lead to 5-2. But in a frustrating repeat of the previous inning, Charleston found an immediate answering run in the bottom of the inning, restoring the four-run lead at 6-2.
A stymied College made another attempt to cut into the deficit in the top of the seventh, when Zach Pearson got all the way to third. Lipke came up to bat with two Tribe runners on base, but couldn’t get a hit past the Charleston outfielders, flying out to end the inning still down 6-2.
The Cougars put the final nail in the Tribe’s coffin with one more run in the bottom of the eighth, bringing their lead to 7-2. Three Tribe batters couldn’t find a hit in the top of the ninth, and the Cougars celebrated a series sweep with their final 7-2 victory.
With the weekend of losses, the Tribe falls to 8-16 on the season, while its conference record will sit at 0-3. Pitchers Sheehan and Haney each recorded their first losses of the season. Although strong efforts from Waldman and McLane, neither regular starters, as well as from McDermott, who is having a standout freshman season, gave the College sparks of hope throughout the weekend, it was unable to put together a winning performance in its first conference challenge.
The team will head to Norfolk Wednesday to play Old Dominion before returning home for its second CAA matchup of the season. It looks to improve its conference record when it faces North Carolina-Wilmington at Plumeri Park next weekend, where the team has been winning regularly. The Tribe is currently 8-6 on the season at home.