By: Matthew Nelson
On Saturday, Feb. 19, the baseball team opened its spring season with a split doubleheader against Castleton University at the Eagles’ home field, V. Earl Dickinson Stadium. The Eagles lost the first game 1-4 but won the second 17-4.
The morning game was a windy, chilly affair with a quiet home crowd in the stands. UMW put the ball in play more often than Castleton, out-hitting them 6 to 4, but the Eagles were unable to capitalize on those hits. Norman Holcomb’s single in the bottom of the fourth inning drove home Nick Ciuffreda for the Eagles’ only run that game.
Between games, the team met to recalibrate and reemphasize their season goals and the importance of doing little things right. When the second game started, the team’s renewed energy showed.
“We were told just to focus on the little things,” said sophomore sociology major Alex Kobersteen. “As a team, we focused on attacking hitters at the plate, and our pitchers made great pitches in counts that mattered.” Kobersteen also said that the increased energy from the spectators helped give the Eagles a bigger home-field advantage in the second game.
After UMW scored twice in the bottom of the first, Castleton players could be heard in the dugout talking about UMW’s energy.
As the weather warmed up later in the afternoon, so did the Eagles’ bats. With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the second, sophomore business major Bobby Ayscue singled to bring in two runs and give UMW the lead. The Eagles would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game, and Ayscue later scored to make the game 6-2.
During the middle of the fifth inning, the team huddled one more time in the UMW dugout. According to sophomore business administration major Noah Roots, the conversation focused on executing simple plays better and sealing their victory.
“After that inning, we let Castleton get a couple runners on and knew that we didn’t want to let them get back into the game, so we were just trying to get a couple more runs on the board to get the game out of reach,” he said.
The Eagles did just that and more. Roots led off to start the bottom of the fifth with a single. By the time Roots came up to bat for the second time in the inning, UMW had scored six runs. Castleton allowed all nine batters in the lineup to reach base without recording an out. After a total of 10 runs that inning, the scoreboard wasn’t large enough to accommodate the team’s score; the board showed zero runs under the fifth inning, but the total score was there: 16-2.
After that, UMW cruised to a 17-4 victory. Work by relief pitchers such as freshman Griffin Graham helped keep Castleton from trying to mount a late-game rally.
Before the game, sophomore biomedical sciences major Ty Lowe hoped that the weekend would give the team an opportunity to start with more momentum than in 2021.
“Last year, we started out 0-5, and I feel like getting two wins to start off the season would be a real confidence booster,” he said. Lowe added that he hoped a hot start would give the players the first step towards their goals, such as winning their conference tournament and making it to the Division III College World Series.
Noah Adcock-Howeth, a junior business administration major, agreed about trying to avoid a “flat start” like past seasons.
“We figure if we can get off to a hot start with our bats and we got the pitching depth to push us through, a hot start to the season is really what we need before we fare into the second half of the season,” said Adcock-Howeth.
When asked about the team’s win, Graham said, “I think it shows that we can compete with anyone out there. We want to carry the momentum from this game into our next game and take care of business. This team wants to win and I think we can do something special this year.”
The team’s next game will be on Friday, Feb. 25 at home against Stevenson University.