George Mason Set To Take On #1 Clemson

The 2007 season should be one of growth for the George Mason Patriots baseball team, as they open up their baseball slate on Friday against Clemson University. Clemson is currently the No. 1 ranked team in the country, so the Patriots and their 24 underclassmen will be tested early. J.J. Pannell (2-5, 7.61 ERA in 2006), will likely take the ball in the opener for the Patriots.

Pannell showcases a low-90s fastball, and has been known to hit 94 on occasion. The Washington Nationals made Pannell their 50th round draft choice in 2006, making him the second Patriot taken by the Nationals on draft day.

The first selection was Robby Jacobsen, whom the Nats took in the 22nd round. Jacobsen was one of the better players in the Colonial Athletic Conference during his time in Fairfax, and his bat and overall leadership will be missed in 2007. Jacobsen led the Patriots in batting average (.326), home runs (11), doubles (16), and runs batted in (37).

Replacing Jacobsen's bat will be a committee of players, all of which got significant time during the 2006 season. True Sophomore Scott Krieger batted over .300 during his freshman campaign, and his eight home runs were good for third on the team. Though he realizes losing Jacobsen is tough, Krieger believes the 2007 Mason lineup may have more depth than the 2006 version.

"We may have lost Robbie's bat, but we also have some players coming back who were injured in 2006," Krieger explained. "This lineup could have better protection from 2-6."

The injured players were Chris Romanow and Chris Fournier, two bats that should play a big role in the success of the Patriots in 2007. Fournier missed all of 2006 with Tommy John Surgery, and appears to be slated to start at second base for GMU. Fournier has the ability to bat well over .300, and Romanow is a power bat who can hit one out of any park in the Colonial Athletic Conference.

Outfielder Spencer Wiggins was another guy who put together a good freshman season in 2006, and he will likely be the Patriots leadoff hitter. A switch-hitter with great speed, Wiggins makes all the plays in the outfield, and can be an absolute pest once he gets on base.

Sophomore Brent Weiss will assume shortstop duties for the Patriots, after starting 41 games as a freshman in 2006. The slick-fielding Weiss batted .261 during the 2006 season, and will be called on to anchor a very good defensive team this year. Weiss knows, however, that the team will only go as far as the pitching staff can take them.

"We're going to play good defense and hit," Weiss said. "But if we can pitch, then we will definitely do some good things this year."

Ryan Uphouse seems to be the favorite to join Weiss on the left side of the infield, after batting .236 in 41 games in 2006. Rounding out the infield will be either Romanow or Justin Bour at first base, which allows Krieger to move from first to the outfield this season.

Jason Bour will be the team's catcher, and will have to work with a pitching staff that will either make, or break, the Patriots season.

Alongside Pannell in the rotation is left-hander Mike Modica, who will likely start for Mason on Saturday. Modica went 3-3 last season, but had a bloated 7.97 earned run average.

Dan Jaycox is viewed as one of the leaders on the team, and he will see significant time on the mound in 2007. Jordan Flasher will likely be the team's closer, as he displays a low-90s fastball, and has the ability to close out a game in pressure situations. Ryan Brecko is a freshman who could crack the starting rotation for the Patriots, as he was a two-time All-State performer in high school.

The George Mason baseball team is young, and they will need to get results from their 15 freshman. If they can get pitching, then they should be much better than advertised. Mason opens up their conference schedule on March 2, when William and Mary come to Fairfax for a three-game set.

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