Coach Edwin Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas baseball team are changing the culture of the 150-year-old program right under our noses. After a history of losses, this team was not supposed to be special by any preseason metric—yet it is currently fourth in NCAA Division I in total home runs.
Baseball is Georgetown’s oldest sports team, playing their first recorded game in 1866 and officially sanctioning in 1870. However, the team’s history has been a story of struggle: Georgetown’s last winning season was in 1986 when the Hoyas posted a 23-22 record. Since 1998, when they started keeping track, the Hoyas have only managed a positive run differential twice (once in 1998 and again in 2012). Combined with the fact that the Hoyas’ home venue has been 12 miles away in the Shirley Povich Field in Rockville, MD since the GU Baseball Diamond was replaced by the Rafik B. Hariri Building in 2000, it’s not hard to see why the program has had difficulty generating excitement.
Edwin Thompson joined the Hoyas’ program in fall of 2020, after posting a five-year record of 122-123 at Eastern Kentucky. Over the same stretch, the Hoyas went 84-130. In his final season with EKU, Thompson’s team won 16 conference games—the most since 2013. His arrival to the Hilltop was a welcome change for a seriously struggling team. However, in his first season with Georgetown, the Hoyas once again posted dismal results with an overall record of 6-25.
Fast forward just one year, and the Hoyas are sitting with a 20-13 overall record, a vast improvement from last year’s season, shortened due to COVID-19.
That translates into individual feats, too. Graduate first baseman and outfielder Ubaldo Lopez leads the way with 14 home runs, including a historic four-home run game on April 5 against a tough Maryland Eastern Shore team, putting him at fifth in the NCAA home run rankings. Not far behind, first base and outfield sophomore sensation Jake Hyde adds 13. In addition, both players—along with junior Andrew Ciufo—are posting batting averages over .300.
For the first time in a very, very long time, Hoya baseball is finally getting a small share of the national spotlight. College baseball pundits and experts are seeing Georgetown’s success come out of left field and are all left with the same question: What changed?
Hyde attributes part of the Hoyas’ success to a change in the team’s confidence. “We show up to series this year and we expect to win,” Hyde said. “Compared to last year, where it felt like we all kinda knew we didn’t have a great shot to win some games.”
The biggest difference Hyde sees, however, is the team’s work ethic. “Monday is our day off every week, and no matter if we sweep a series or get swept, you go in the next Monday, and everyone is in the cages getting extra work in,” Hyde said.
He also noted that graduate players, like Lopez, have contributed immensely to the team’s changed mentality and have served as role models for the younger team members as an example of how much work they need to put in to see improvements.
Zooming out, this baseball team is well assembled, and, despite the struggles which have characterized the program for decades, believes in itself. The team is continuing to learn from their successes and shortcomings—and it’s paying off. The electrifying, high-scoring games they’re playing— racking up wins and battling local powerhouses like Maryland to close losses—are testimony enough.
Looking ahead, the Hoyas still have a long way to go. There are still 21 regular season games to play, the majority of which are Big East conference games, meaning there is no room to get complacent. The team has played six of their 23 scheduled conference games thus far, getting off to a slow 2-4 start which included getting swept in Omaha against Creighton.
“We’re a good team, but we’re not good enough to just show up to games and win. We have to be laser-focused, especially against a good team like Creighton,” Lopez explained. “Going into that weekend, we probably weren’t as focused as we could’ve been, but that’s a good lesson to have and I’d rather that come earlier in conference play than later.”
Coach Thompson and the Hoyas will look to improve upon the in-conference play, but they have something special brewing: a potential Big East tournament run.
“We’ve said it since the fall: We’re going to Prasco [Park], that’s where our championship conference tournament is, that’s our number one goal,” Lopez said.
Once they’re at the tournament, the Hoyas will take things the same way they have been for the rest of the season: one game at a time. “Baseball is a funny game. You don’t have to be the best team to win the game, you have to be the best team that day to win the game. And so for us, it’s just getting our foot in the door and seeing what happens from there,” Lopez added.
This is not to say we should expect championships immediately, but for the first time in decades, it looks like the Georgetown baseball program is genuinely building towards something other than complacent mediocrity, and it’s worth being excited about. Hoya fans can enjoy the preliminary success of the team, which has already tripled its wins from last season, and share in the joy of a brighter future.
“Maybe in five years, ten years, Georgetown is nationally recognized. I can say ‘I was a part of that,’” Lopez said, proud of his investment in the Hoyas team. “Fostering that environment is what sold me that this could be a chance to build something special.”
While the days of playing games at the old GU Baseball Diamond, where the Hariri and Regents Buildings now stand, are long gone, students can still get excited. The team hopes that their ongoing success brings fans out to games. In the meantime, Coach Thompson and the Hoyas will keep reshaping the culture of the program by believing in themselves, proving the doubters wrong on the diamond, and winning games.
“Everyone wants to change the narrative around Georgetown baseball and what the program’s been in the past,” Hyde added. “We’re doing that through hard work.”