GW, St. Joseph's honored to open field

GW, St. Joe's honored to open field

WASHINGTON -- After the final out was recorded, Nationals president Stan Kasten hurried out to the field and asked the two coaches how the field played.

"Well, they didn't seem to have any troubles," St. Joseph's coach Lee Saverio joked.

George Washington players got the experience of a lifetime -- opening up Nationals Park -- and made it even sweeter with a 9-4 victory during the first weekend of Atlantic-10 play.

Along the way several Colonials put their names in the park's record book. Charlie Kruer got the first hit, triple and run; pitcher Eric Cantrell threw the first pitch and got the first strikeout; and catcher Andrew Abokhair had the first RBI, a line-drive single that almost took Hawks pitcher Jason Hessler out of the game.

"That whole at-bat, I was having such jitters," Abokhair said. "I could feel the adrenaline pumping. It was wonderful."

St. Joseph's Jerome Scott hit a ball to the right-field fence, but the first home run will have to come next weekend from a Major Leaguer.

The game was played in front of the largest crowd in George Washington history, though it could have been even larger. Nationals officials capped attendance at 5,000 for the stadium's test run. On the box score, attendance was listed at 2,500.

"Having all these supporters here makes such a big difference," coach Steve Mrowka said. "I think it kept our guys focused the whole game."

"It was incredible. From the moment we got here, we were amazed at how big this place is, and we got a lot of fans out here to support us, which made it even better."
-- GW pitcher Eric Cantrell

The Colonials went up, 1-0, on Kruer's run, then scored three runs in both the third and fourth innings to put the game away and win the tiebreaking third game of the weekend series.

On the mound for GW was freshman pitcher Cantrell. The 19-year-old showed no nerves on the mound, breezing through the first inning. He said the mound was slightly lower than he was used to, but after making adjustments, he was able to stymie the hitters.

Cantrell pitched eight innings, allowing three runs in the eighth before leaving, though his win was never in question.

"I'm just going to try to remember the first seven innings," he said with a laugh. "It was incredible. From the moment we got here, we were amazed at how big this place is, and we got a lot of fans out here to support us, which made it even better."

The team used the facilities at George Washington -- the clubhouse was off-limits Saturday -- but stayed around to soak in the atmosphere and take pictures on the field.

"The guys had a blast. Even just coming in out front, their jaws were dropped," Mrowka said. "The facility is above and beyond nice, and we played a great game and won, which makes it that much better."

Now it's on to the rest of the regular season for the Colonials, though not before getting a quick peek into the lives of the professionals, who play in front of thousands every night.

"We think it's a grind playing 56 games," Abokhair said. "You wonder how they do it, then you come out here and see all the fans and the energy.

"I could get used to doing this every day."

Michael Phillips is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.