TOWSON, Md. - Closing out the season this weekend, the Tigers host George Mason University in a three-game Colonial Athletic Association series. The teams are scheduled to play single games on Friday (3:00), Saturday (1:00) and Sunday (1:00).
Prior to the season finale on Sunday, the Tigers will honor their seven seniors in pre-game ceremonies as pitchers Nate Curd, Austin Hurd, John Schmeer and Wes Shifflett make their final college appearances, along with infielder Eric Weller, first baseman Steve Yarsinsky and All-CAA outfielder Kevin Collins.
Although the Patriots are only one game ahead of Towson in the CAA standings, this series has more importance for Mason than Towson. George Mason (27-21, 10-11) is alive for a berth in next weekend's CAA Tournament at UNC Wilmington while the Tigers (17-35, 9-12) have been eliminated.
The Patriots need to sweep the series from Towson to have any chance of moving into the fourth and final playoff spot. With a 13-11 CAA record, UNC Wilmington is currently fourth iand their CAA schedule is complete. If Mason sweeps, the Patriots move into a tie with UNCW for fourth. The Patriots are tied for fifth with William & Mary (27-20, 10-11) and Hofstra (20-25-1, 10-11). The Tribe ends the regular season with a at Georgia State while Hofstra hosts Old Dominion in a three-game series.
Despite their 9-12 CAA record, the Tigers have been swept only once this season. In April, Virginia Commonwealth beat Towson in three straight games.
Led by senior shortstop Ryan Soares, the Patriots are one of the top offensive teams in the CAA, boasting a .325 team batting average. Soares leads the CAA with a .429 batting average and 26 doubles. He ranks among the CAA leaders with 63 RBI's. Soares also tops the CAA with a .771 slugging percentage. Senior third baseman Mark Hill is also one of the top hitters in the CAA. He is batting .416, fifth in the league. He leads the CAA with a .528 on-base percentage.
Freshman lefthander Chris O'Grady leads the Patriots' pitching staff with a 3-1 record and a 4.02 E.R.A. Senior righthander Kevin Crum has a 5-3 mark and a 4.09 E.R.A.
The Patriots, who won the CAA regular season title in 2009 and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, come into Schuerholz Park with an eight-game losing streak. George Mason has lost its last six CAA games as the Patriots have been swept by Georgia State and Virginia Commonwealth the last two weekends. The Patriots opened the season by winning 10 of their first 15 CAA games of the year.
For the first time since 2007, the Tigers enter the final weekend of the season with no chance to make the CAA Tournament. Last year, they were eliminated on the final day by Northeastern. In 2008, the Tigers clinched a CAA Tournament berth with a 7-2 win over Georgia State in the season finale. Then, they reached the CAA championship round as they finished as CAA runners-up to James Madison.
The Tigers, who are 17-35 and 9-12 in the CAA, have lost seven of their last eight games coming into the series. The Tigers, who are 7-8 at Schuerholz Park, have a 4-5 mark in CAA games at home.
Senior first baseman Steve Yarsinsky, the Tigers' leading hitter with a .341 batting average, has missed the last three games with an ankle injury. It is doubtful he will play this weekend. Since his injury at North Carolina State, the Tigers have struggled offensively.
Junior second baseman Chris Wychock, a .340 hitter, leads the Tigers with 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 47 runs batted in. Sophomore centerfielder Ben Winter is batting .333 with a team-leading 49 runs scored. Winter is also tied for first in the CAA with six triples.
Junior shortstop Nick Natoli has been one of the team's hottest hitters in recent weeks. He is now batting .332 with 15 doubles, two home runs and 38 runs batted in.