Next Man Up
Familiar faces in new roles and unproven newcomers have all stepped up to bring GW to the Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship
By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications
The rush of emotion surprised Mark Osis.
From his spot in center field, the GW senior watched teammate Steven Barmakian navigate the fence down the right field line to make a nifty grab on a foul ball that seemed destined to land out of play.
In a moment of pure bliss, Osis jumped in celebration and let out a mighty holler of approval before leading the Buff and Blue charge toward Barmakian, whose highlight-reel catch with the potential tying run on third sealed Saturday's 5-4 win at Saint Louis in the 13th inning and a hard-earned berth in this week's Atlantic 10 Championship at Tucker Field at Barcroft Park.
"I'd never shown so much excitement and joy on the field," Osis said with a grin. "That was better than any walk-off or anything like that."
The marathon victory over the A-10 Regular Season Champion Billikens -- complete with eight innings of gutsy relief from closer Will Kobos -- provided a fitting conclusion to GW's A-10 Championship push.
Little has come easy for the Colonials this spring. They've managed to survive a steady stream of injuries with a constantly shuffling lineup to qualify as the No. 7 seed for their fourth straight conference tournament.
To solve the puzzle, head coach Gregg Ritchie has had to trust unproven newcomers with important jobs and rely on old faces in unfamiliar roles, too. By now, this group feels battle-tested, to say the least.
"There's been a lot of growth in this team and mental toughness and resiliency," Ritchie said. "Because when you go through these things, it's not going to be very pretty sometimes. You're going to have to find a way to bounce back and compete.
"Like I told these guys on the bus (Saturday), I'm so proud of them, especially for the last five to six weeks, getting through that and finding a way in. My admiration for them is at an all-time high of just about any team I've had here."
Along the way, GW (29-24, 13-11 A-10) has gotten comfortable with being uncomfortable. Led by an experienced nine-man senior class, the Colonials have shown an ability to roll with the punches.
Edwards has emerged as a steady Friday starter with a 3.45 ERA in 11 starts, highlighted by a one-hit shutout of George Mason on May 4.
"We're just stepping up as a team," senior Robbie Metz said. "We see one guy go down, and we just want to help them out until they can get back where they need to be. It's really a team effort."
Metz has done his part. The Poolesville, Md., native has been GW's everyday second baseman since his freshman season, but he's made more starts at shortstop this season (28) than second (25).
That kind of adaptability has especially been at a premium on the infield.
Matt Cosentino was a reserve outfielder for the first three years of his career before staking his claim to a starting job at first base as a senior. Fellow infielders Nate Fassnacht and Isaiah Pasteur have moved around the diamond to help fill in the gaps, as well.
It's been difficult, at times, for Ritchie to fill out a lineup card, but the Colonials have certainly made the process easier by their willingness to accept their assignments.
"It's part of our atmosphere, part of our culture, part of the way we talk and think and respond," Ritchie said. "With these guys, we don't have to harp on it too much."
Dominic D'Alessandro has emerged as the ultimate utility guy, as much by necessity as design.
For most of his first season with the Colonials, D'Alessandro has been in the lineup as designated hitter, but that plan changed down the stretch. The junior was honored with the club's Got Your Back Award for his play during stints filling in at catcher and in left field, two spots he hadn't played in a couple of years.
When starting catcher Brandon Chapman missed two weeks due to injury, the Colonials were in a pinch. D'Alessandro had caught a couple of times in junior college and drew first crack at the fill-in job. He performed admirably over seven games behind the plate, even throwing out a pair of would-be base stealers.
"That was pretty awesome," Cosentino said. "When he threw out the first guy, we were jacked up. And then he threw out another guy, and it was like `Alright here we go, Dom can play catcher now.'"
Ultimately, GW needed all those contributions, plus some heroics on the final day of the regular season, to get back to the A-10 Championship.
The Colonials headed into last weekend needing at least one win over Saint Louis to extend their season and have an opportunity to compete for an NCAA berth on their home field.
A 7-1 loss Thursday and a Friday rain out ratcheted up the stakes for Saturday's doubleheader, where GW took care of business in the opener. Eventually.
The Colonials erased an early deficit to tie it at 4-4 in the sixth and then leaned on Kobos to keep it there until D'Alessandro's fielder's choice plated the go-ahead run in the top of the 13th. In the bottom of the inning, Kobos closed out his memorable outing, pitching around an error with help from Barmakian's web gem.
"That game was all about, `Do you believe enough? Can you fight enough? Can you grind it out enough? Can you outlast it, even though things may not be perfect?'" Ritchie said. "That's what they did for 13 innings, and they got it done."
And now GW plays on, starting the double-elimination tournament with Wednesday's opener against second-seeded George Mason at 1:30 p.m. They'll be boosted by a home crowd and the confidence built over such a trying regular season.
"It was not easy making our way into this tournament, and we're not going to take it for granted," Osis said. "This is a great team that has had to battle a lot of adversity, but at the end of the day, we're still a great team. And great teams win. So we're looking to win."
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