CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The year started with youth and without a permanent coach for the George Washington softball team, though both issues now appear in better health.
Bill Gerwig, the Patriots' fourth coach this year, leads a youthful squad that does not start a single senior, but as of late those issues have not posed any problems. GW won its second straight game with a 3-0 shutout victory at Nitro on Wednesday night.
Gerwig began the season as a parent volunteer, but has since found his way to head coach following a resignation and pair of interim coaches. He inherited a lineup dominated by youth, but he said that's far from his mind.
"I think people may tend to use that (youth) as an excuse sometimes for poor play," he said, "and we've had plenty of poor play early in the season, but the last few games we've played much better, even against some good, tough, caliber teams.
"The change has been remarkably noticeable, and we've won our last two games with good pitching and good defense. Defense has been our Achilles heel for most of the season, so if we can get through with a shutout like this, that's a big step in the right direction."
Bailey Rabel, a sophomore catcher, lists among the talented bunch. Rabel contributed in Wednesday's victory with an RBI triple and RBI double.
It's been a good turn-around of late, Rabel said.
"At the beginning of the year we weren't really meshing together, and we just couldn't work together as a team and get the right outs," Rabel said. "We've been trying to get better and get somewhere this year."
Fellow sophomore Jessi Thevenin, the team's starting right fielder, has played a pivotal part in the improved play, too, mainly at the plate.
The youth movement doesn't end with Thevenin or Rabel, though.
Junior Rachel Ward leads the team at shortstop. Other juniors include center fielder Brittany Potter, left fielder Tori Hill and third baseman Hannah Adams.
Gerwig's daughter Madeline Gerwig starts at second as a sophomore, while freshman Allie McKowen anchors first.