For the second straight weekend, James Madison baseball will square off against the second-place team in the Colonial Athletic Association when it hosts George Mason in a three-game series. The weekend begins with a 6:30 p.m. game Friday, another 6:30 game Saturday and Sunday's 2 p.m. finale.
Last weekend, JMU claimed two of three games in an offensively dominated series at previously second-place Hofstra. That allowed George Mason to climb to the No. 2 spot in the league going into this weekend's series at Eagle Field, where the Patriots will make their first visit in the facilities third season. They are the last CAA team to make their first appearance at Veterans Memorial Park thanks to a scheduling quirk that has sent JMU to Fairfax in four of the last five seasons.
It will be a busy weekend with a Pack the Park promotion on Saturday, which includes the first Diamond Dukes Cornhole Classic beginning at 3:30 p.m. The first 250 students through the gate will receive free a free t-shirt and there will be a pregame barbeque for students.
Also, Sunday's 2 p.m. game marks the third annual Justin Brown Day. Brown is a nine-year-old honorary member of the baseball team through Friends of Jaclyn, an organization that pairs collegiate athletic teams with children who have brain tumors. In his third season with the Diamond Dukes, Brown will be introduced prior to the game and will throw the first pitch of the game.
"Justin Brown Day is always an exciting day for Justin, the Brown family, and the players," said baseball team captain Bradley Shaban. "It's a celebration of Justin being a member of our team. We are honored to have such a strong brave person a part of our team, and we like to show that on Justin Brown Day."
The Dukes enter the weekend having won seven of their last nine games in the CAA. During that stretch, JMU has hit .360 as a team with a 5.85 staff ERA while limiting opponents to a .288 average with an 8.66 team ERA. Conner Brown (.520), Evan Scott (.455), Colby Roberts (.444), Ty McFarland (.435), Cole McInturff (.421) and Bradley Shaban (.382) have led the offensive upswing. The Dukes have outscored their opponents 104-66 with 31 of the runs allowed in the Hofstra series.
Scouting George Mason
Mason has won five straight CAA series since being swept at Towson in the middle of March. Since that time, the Patriots have taken two out of three in every series against William and Mary, Georgia State, VCU, Northeastern and most recently last weekend at home against Old Dominion. This week, the Patriots won at Georgetown 6-3 on Tuesday and fell to Coppin State 5-4 on Wednesday.
The Patriots enter the weekend ranked eighth in the CAA with a .278 team batting average and third with a 3.79 staff ERA. Brig Tison leads the offense with a .364 average. Dan Schafferman is hitting .335 with five home runs and 34 RBIs while Zack Helgeson provides the power with 17 doubles and 10 home runs for a .599 slugging percentage.
On the mound, the Patriots boast one of the league's best bullpens thanks to the trio of Chris O'Grady, Jake Kalish and Branden Bartleett. O'Grady has been lights out with just one run allowed in 27 2/3 innings. He has a 0.33 ERA, .140 opponent average, 11 saves and 38 strikeouts compared to 12 walks. Kalish is 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA and five saves. Bartlett is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA.
JMU leads the all-time series against the Patriots 58-45 and has won five of the last seven meetings, as well as 12 of the last 18. The Dukes won the series each of the last two years in Fairfax. Last year, the Patriots took game one 9-5 before JMU responded with 11-9 and 10-8 wins in early April. The last meeting in Harrisonburg was the final games in the history of Long Field/Mauck Stadium with the nationally-ranked Patriots taking two out of three to end JMU's season.
Friday 6:30 p.m.
JMU - Patrick Toohers, Fr., RHP (2-1, 3.91 ERA)
GMU - Anthony Montefusco, r-So., RHP (4-2, 2.98 ERA)
Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
JMU - Michael Howerton, r-Fr., RHP (0-2, 6.61 ERA)
GMU - Ryan Pfaeffle, Sr., RHP (5-3, 3.59 ERA)
Sunday, 2 p.m.
JMU - Evan Scott, Sr., RHP (1-4, 10.08 ERA)
GMU - A.J. Johnson, r-Sr., RHP (6-4, 3.99 ERA)