Baseball Team Hoping for Growth Spurt in 2007

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Bill Brown will begin his 26th season as head coach of the Patriots on Feb. 16 when he leads a group of 24 underclassmen at national power Clemson.
Bill Brown will begin his 26th season as head coach of the Patriots on Feb. 16 when he leads a group of 24 underclassmen at national power Clemson.

Feb. 5, 2007

The 2007 George Mason baseball team will be one of the youngest squads in school history as the Patriots welcome 17 first-year players, 16 of which are freshmen. Throw the fact that there will be no seniors on the team into the mix and Mason will be a work in progress this season.

Five juniors will lead the Patriots in 2007 - Jason Bour, Chris Fournier, Dan Jaycox, J.J. Pannell and Chris Romanow. Bour is in his second season with the team after transferring from Hampden-Sydney, Fournier has played just one season for Mason after transferring from Notre Dame and Jaycox, Pannell and Romanow all are in their fourth year with Mason after earning medical redshirts. Bour, a catcher, Fournier, a second baseman, and Romanow, a corner infielder and designated hitter, will form the nucleus of the batting order while Jaycox and Pannell are returning to the starting rotation.

Bour was a huge addition to the team last year, as his arrival allowed Robby Jacobsen to finally see some time in the outfield. One of Mason's all-time great, Jacobsen had caught every game for Mason as a sophomore and junior. Bour saw the majority of the action behind the dish, and he produced both offensively and defensively. He threw out 25 percent of base runners on stolen base attempts and had just four passed balls while compiling a .967 fielding percentage. More impressive were his numbers at the plate, where he hit .313 with 11 doubles and a .470 slugging percentage. He has the highest batting average among all returning players.

Fournier missed last season with after undergoing Tommy John surgery. As a sophomore in 2005, he hit .304 with eight homers, 46 RBI and 47 runs scored. He was second on the team with 38 walks and he had a .442 on-base percentage. Fournier played third base that year but he is expected to move to second base this season, a position he played well in the fall.

Romanow has spent much of the past two seasons dealing with injuries. After batting .295 as a freshman, he managed just one at-bat in 2005 before earning a redshirt. Last year, he worked his way back but was less than 100 percent for much of the year. He finished the campaign with a .231 batting average, but he slugged .404. He will see time at designated hitter as well as both corner infield positions.

Jaycox was Mason's most consistent starter down the stretch. He pitched in 15 games with eight starts and he compiled a 3-4 mark with a 6.39 ERA. His strength was his tenacity and his control. He was second on the team in innings pitched with 63.1 and he walked just 17 batters while striking out 60. Pannell saw time as a starter and a reliever, ultimately pitching 62.2 innings with nine starts in 15 appearances. He was 2-5 with a 7.61 ERA but he allowed just three home runs on the season.

While the upperclassmen are few on the team, there is a large group of sophomores who return after making a big impact on the team last year. Three players were chosen to the CAA All-Rookie Team and seven return from a class that received a ton of experience last year.

Outfielders Scott Krieger and Spencer Wiggins each were among the top first-year players in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2006. Krieger batted .303 with 15 doubles, 30 RBI, 37 runs scored and a .523 slugging percentage in 49 games. Most impressive, though, was the way he closed out the season. After a mid-year slump, he batted .373 with six homers, 20 RBI, 21 runs and a .699 slugging percentage over the final 20 games.

Wiggins hit .287 for Mason with a .373 on-base percentage in 48 games. He was hit by a team-high 13 pitches and he was 12 of 14 on stolen base attempts, second-most on the team. He scored 26 times and his one strikeout every 8.9 at-bats was the lowest on the team.

Two other first-year players appeared in more than 40 games. Shortstop Brent Weiss started 41 games, batted .261 and had a .949 fielding percentage at the diamond's most demanding position. He also added a .321 on-base percentage. Ryan Uphouse, who will compete for the third baseman's job, appeared in 41 games with a .236 batting average. He had a .336 slugging percentage and he scored 22 runs on 33 hits. One other sophomore position player returns for Mason in the form of Mike Laird. The outfielder started 16 games and appeared in five others batting .207 with five steals in six attempts.

While Jaycox and Pannell return in the starting rotation, Jordan Flasher will return to anchor the bullpen. The sophomore was the third Mason player selected to the CAA All-Rookie Team and he had a Mason freshman-record 25 appearances last year, one shy of the school record for all pitchers. Flasher also led the staff with a 4.34 ERA and four saves. He kept opposing batters to a .248 batting average while running off a 3-1 record.

The other returning pitcher is Mike Modica. The sophomore was a mid-week starter and appeared out of the bullpen on five occasions. He was 3-3 with a 7.97 ERA and he tied for the team lead in complete games. He allowed just two home runs in 49.2 innings but he struggled with his command, walking 34 batters while striking out just 22.

While those 12 players embody the program's experience, the 17 newcomers embody the program's future, perhaps none more so than Justin Bour. The freshman from Centreville, Va. is the brother of Jason Bour and he was one of the state's most feared hitters. He was All-State, All-Region, All-District and All-Met last year while batting .547 with 10 home runs and a 1.680 OPS. Bour will compete for a spot either at first base or designated hitter.

Another freshman with a lot of promise is Ryan Brecko. He is the first Mason player since major leaguer Shawn Camp in 1995 and 1996 that is expected to both pitch and play a position for Mason. Brecko had a 13-3 record over his final two seasons in high school while batting .495 with six home runs as a senior and .420 with 10 home runs as a junior. He could be in the outfield or at designated hitter when he isn't pitching.

Other first-year position players include: Chris Henderson, a catcher and outfielder who hit .490 as a senior, .468 as a junior and holds his high school record for most RBI in a career; Mark Hill, an infielder who batted .431 as a senior and is related to former Major League All-Star Bob Horner; Mitchell Levine, a third baseman and outfielder who hit .493 as a senior and holds school records for career hits, runs and steals; Dan Palumbo, an infielder who hit .392, slugged .529 and had a 1.048 OPS as a junior and is the brother of assistant coach Jeff Palumbo; Josh Steinberg, a catcher who batted better than .300 as a junior and senior and took part in the Perfect Game Showcase; and Aaron Tenney, a third baseman and outfielder who was a two-time All-State selection.

Joining Brecko on the pitching staff are: Jason Koziol, a sophomore-eligible transfer from Liberty who had a 2.10 ERA last year; Dan Gerjets, who had a 0.93 ERA for his high school career, including a 0.64 ERA as a junior; Benji Kagan, an Oakton product who was All-Met as a senior; Darren McLean, an All-State selection from New Hampshire; Kris Mengle, who was 8-2 with 88 strikeouts and 10 walks as a senior; T.J. O'Grady, a three-sport star out of Congers, N.Y.; Trevor Rosenberg, who was 7-3 as a senior with 101 strikeouts in 62 innings; Bryan Wade, an All-Region pitcher from Hampton, Va.; and Jack Zeltner, an All-District and All-Region hurler from Centreville, Va.

One thing this year's team won't have is early season games that give the players a chance to develop at their own pace. That's because Mason starts the year on Feb. 16 with a three-game series at national power Clemson. The following weekend, Mason plays College of Charleston twice and Charleston Southern once. Then, with just six games under its belt, Mason will open the CAA slate on March 2 by hosting William & Mary in a three-game set.

Mason's non-conference schedule has home-and-home games with George Washington, Georgetown, Liberty, Navy and Richmond, a trip to Virginia and an exhibition with the Potomac Nationals, the Single A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Mason also has home games with Coppin State, Mount St. Mary's, Longwood and Temple. Mason's lone weekend series against a non-conference opponent has the Patriots hosting Chicago State April 20-22.

Mason will play 30 CAA contests once again this year as the Patriots will look to return to the CAA Tournament after missing it in 2006 for the first time in 20 years. The Patriots were selected seventh in the preseason Coaches' Poll with the top six teams at the end of the year qualifying for the tournament, which takes place in Wilmington, N.C. The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Mason last won the CAA title in 1992. Since then, Mason has earned at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament in 1993 and 2004.

Virginia Commonwealth was selected first in the poll followed by UNC Wilmington, Delaware, Old Dominion, James Madison and Georgia State. Mason will host all but two of those top six schools. The Patriots will welcome Georgia State (March 23-25), Delaware (April 6-8), James Madison (April 13-15) and Old Dominion (May 4-6). Mason will play at VCU (March 30-April 1) and at UNC Wilmington May (18-20). The Patriots will also travel to Hofstra (March 9-11), Northeastern (March 16-18) and Towson (April 27-29). The CAA Tournament begins May 23 and runs through May 26.

For the 26th straight season, the Patriots will be led by head coach Bill Brown. Mason's all-time winningest coach will be joined by assistants Jeff Palumbo, in his second season, and Steve Hay, in his first season. Andy Devitt returns for his second year as a volunteer assistant coach.



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