BASEBALL | Two Walk-Off Wins Cement Sweep
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 02:03
It was a weekend of breathless endings and dramatic performances for the Georgetown baseball team, as the Hoyas (12-6, 1-0 Big East) rode two walk-off victories to a three-game sweep over Princeton (1-10, 0-0 Ivy League), 5-4 and 3-0 in a doubleheader on Friday and 3-2 in 12 innings on Sunday.
“I was pleased; our guys battled and fought and competed well,” Head Coach Pete Wilk said. “I think [the tight wins] say a lot about our character and who our kids are as people.”
Although Georgetown may have entered the weekend with hopes of sweeping a relatively weak Princeton team, the Blue and Gray could not have imagined that it would earn two of its victories in such a dramatic fashion. Several Georgetown players stepped up in crunch time, but the star of the series was junior right fielder Christian Venditti, who went 5-for-9 on the weekend, including a two-run home run in the 3-0 win on Friday and a walk-off two-run single in Sunday’s game. Venditti — who endured a rough start to the season — raised his batting average to .290 and his team-leading home run and RBI totals to three and 18, respectively.
“He’s certainly seeing the ball well,” Wilk said of Venditti. “He stepped up a number of times when we really needed a big hit. He had a huge hand in the wins, and he’s a presence in the middle of our lineup. He really elevates his play when we need it.”
Despite his impact in the latter two games of the series, Venditti was not even in the lineup for Friday’s first game, which featured a remarkable ninth-inning comeback. After redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Jack Vander Linden (1-0) gave up three runs and sophomore reliever Will Brown allowed another, the Tigers entered the ninth inning with a 4-2 lead. However, the Hoyas — who developed a penchant for late-inning heroics during their spring break trip to Florida with two walk-off wins — put on their rally caps and promptly responded.
After freshman catcher Eric Webber loaded the bases on a bunt single, senior third baseman Trevor Matern hit a single to left, scoring two runs to tie the game. Senior center fielder Justin Leeson then singled to reload the bases before Webber scored to end the game on a wild pitch by Princeton pitcher sophomore Tyler Foote.
Georgetown’s second game of the doubleheader proved to be much less stressful, thanks in large part to the play of senior starting pitcher Thomas Polus (2-1), who delivered arguably the best performance by a Georgetown starter this season, pitching seven shutout innings and allowing a mere five hits.
“Thomas has shown good command over three pitches in the last two starts, and he’s getting ahead of hitters better than he did earlier in the season,” Wilk said. “He’s not giving up any freebies.”
Polus was buoyed by third baseman Trevor Matern’s RBI single in the fourth inning and Venditti’s two-run bomb in the sixth. Thanks to shutout innings by senior relievers Neal Dennison and Charlie Steinman, the Hoyas finished the day with a comfortable victory.
On Sunday, the final game of the series was marked by much of the drama that characterized the series opener. Sophomore starting pitcher Matt Hollenbeck (0-3) entered the game seeking his first win, but he could not earn it despite giving up only two runs over seven innings. As good as Hollenbeck was, he was matched by Princeton pitcher junior Mike Ford, who went nine full innings, giving up two runs and adding two hits on offense.
Trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning, Georgetown tied the game when sophomore shortstop Ryan Busch scored on a sacrifice fly by Matern. Georgetown would not score again until the twelfth inning, but outstanding performances in relief by Dennison and Steinman, who went two and three innings, respectively, kept the Tigers at bay.
In the twelfth inning, senior second baseman Danny Poplawski and freshman catcher Nick Collins drew consecutive walks before Venditti landed the winning hit, a line drive to left field that scored Poplawski and gave the Hoyas their second thrilling walk-off win in three days.
The sweep put the Hoyas in good position as their Big East-opening series against Connecticut looms next weekend. However, before its conference season starts, Georgetown must take care of away games against George Washington (4-14) today and Maryland Eastern Shore (4-15) Wednesday. After Georgetown’s resilient performance against Princeton, Wilk said that he was pleasantly surprised with the Hoyas’ play thus far.
“I didn’t know what we were getting … into this year, but we have a deeper and better pitching staff,” Wilk said. “I wasn’t sure what we were getting out of the lineup, but I’ve been pleased with the production. Hopefully the pitching will be as good as it has been so far.”
Georgetown will face George Washington at 3 p.m. today and Maryland Eastern Shore at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.