They say pitching wins championships, and the adage certainly proved true on Wednesday, as the second-seeded Richmond Spiders and the sixth-seeded George Washington Colonials opened the Atlantic-10 tournament with a pitcher’s duel.
For six innings, Bobby LeWarne of George Washington battled Ryan Cook of Richmond. Frame after frame, the pitchers mowed through the opposing lineups, striking out batters and escaping jams highlighted by strolls to first base rather than hits. Collectively, the pitchers gave up just three hits in that six-inning span, compared with five walks.
In the bottom of the sixth, centerfielder Tanner Stanley took advantage of one of those free passes. Then the A-10 Player of the Year stepped up to the plate. Michael Morman lofted a two-run shot over the centerfield wall, and the duel was abruptly over.
“He did it again,” head coach Tracy Woodson said, referring to Morman’s perpetual offensive leadership. “He gets the ball up, and it’s a two-run homer. That’s what propels you. I thought the first team to score was going to get the momentum, and we got it.”
Richmond went on to score in each of the next two innings. Left fielder Jansen Fraser hit Richmond’s second home run of the day, and Stanley scored on an error by LeWarne after getting on base with a single.
The Spiders’ 4-1 win – GW scored its sole run on three consecutive singles that knocked Cook from the game in the seventh – was in line with their offensive strategy for the day. Though they had not faced the Colonials this year, they swept the three-game series against them in 2014 and knew that the hitters were not celebrated for their power.
“To be honest with the wind blowing out we figured we had to out-homer them,” Woodson said. “And that worked for us.”
George Washington finished the season with a team total of 12 home runs. Morman (7) and Fraser (5) combined for 12 home runs themselves out of Richmond’s 57. The Spiders played to their strengths, and with the support of a terrific effort by their pitchers they walked away with a win and a ticket to the next round of the tournament.
Richmond’s post-game excitement was palpable. Beaming smiles and fist bumps abounded. James Lively and Ray Harron, who each pitched a scoreless inning of relief, laughed and celebrated with their teammates and families. Cook bounded off the field like a golden retriever puppy in the sunshine.
After a rough first tournament start in 2014, in which he allowed six runs over just two innings to eliminate Richmond from the tournament, Cook was pleased with his opportunity for redemption, he said.
“Ryan Cook was outstanding,” Woodson said. “I think he wanted to get revenge on that [past] outing and he was tremendous. Our pitchers were all really good today.”
Morman chose the word confident to describe his spirits after Richmond’s first Game-One win since the 2012 tournament.
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“We’re ready to go,” Morman said. “We know we’ve got three more games to win. We’ve got to carry this momentum and take it all the way to the championship.”
Richmond will play the second-seeded Rhode Island Rams at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning after the Rams’ win over Fordham Wednesday afternoon. George Washington and Fordham will meet in an elimination game at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
Contact reporter Erin Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org
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