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Baseball heads south for series against Patriots

Bruno continues search for its first win of season after being swept by South Carolina last weekend

The baseball team will travel to Fairfax, Va., this weekend to attempt to garner its first win of the season against George Mason University in a three-game series.

Bruno (0-3) had a rough go of it against the No. 1 University of South Carolina (15-0) last weekend, losing three games by an aggregate score of 22-0. But the margin of defeat dropped each game, to the point where the Bears fell just 1-0 in the series’ final encounter.

The third game’s scoreline was made possible by the heroic efforts of Christian Taugner ’17, who held the country’s top team to one run over seven innings in the first start of his collegiate career. He gave up seven hits and two walks, but South Carolina’s lone score came on a sacrifice fly.

For his stellar outing, Taugner was named the Ivy League Pitcher of the Week and co-Rookie of the Week along with Princeton’s Danny Baer. No Brown pitcher had won both of those awards since Anthony Galan ’14 in March 2011, and a Bear hasn’t won Pitcher of the Week outright since Matt Kimball ’11 did so a week before Galan shared the honor in 2011.

Head Coach Marek Drabinski mentioned last weekend that Taugner had all but certainly earned a spot in the starting rotation for conference play, but he should have an opportunity to lay all doubts aside with another strong showing this weekend.

The Bears struggled on offense against South Carolina, failing to plate a single runner. They hit .156/.174/.178 against the intimidating Gamecock staff, striking out 28 times while walking just once. Bruno also notched only two extra-base hits, both from outfielder Daniel Massey ’14. But the series was the Bears’ first of the year and provided an opportunity for the team to discover problems and work on addressing them.

With South Carolina in the rearview, Bruno prepares for the Patriots (9-6). George Mason began the season on a hot streak, winning its opening three games and five of its first six while playing in tournaments in South Carolina. George Mason won its first three games upon its return to Virginia but has since lost four of five against relatively middling opponents. The only ranked team the Patriots have faced is No. 13 North Carolina, to whom they fell by a score of 13-3 in Chapel Hill, N.C.

George Mason has been strong with the bats thus far this season. The Patriots have scored 76 runs on the season, which amounts to just over five per game, and have churned out 2.6 extra base hits per game. Most of their extra base hits have been doubles, leading to a somewhat low .366 slugging percentage, but the squad has also knocked six home runs.

The Patriots have also pitched quite well. Entering their matchup with UNC, the Patriots were 17th in the country with a 2.02 team ERA, and though it jumped to 2.76 when the Tar Heels tagged them for 13 runs, the increase came against one of the best teams in the country. The leader of their impressive staff is Anthony Montefusco, who has been on a tear this season. He has made four starts and pitched a total of 25 innings, allowing 22 hits, three walks and no runs while striking out 24 opponents. He has pitched the fourth-most innings of any pitcher who has yet to allow a run this season.

The excellent George Mason pitching staff will make it no easier for the Bears to break through and score their first run of the season, but they are still no Gamecocks, whose 1.20 team ERA ranks as the third-best in college baseball. The Bears will likely enter the run column this weekend, though perhaps not with a massive splash.

Even if Bruno’s offense gets on the scoreboard, it may continue to struggle, especially if it has not learned the importance of executing with runners on base. Poor performance in that aspect of the game, along with a lack of power hitting, hurt the Bears badly last weekend, though Drabinski has said he is not concerned about the latter issue.

This weekend’s series will come down to how Bruno pitches. If players like Taugner and Dave St. Lawrence ’15 can throw like they did against the Gamecocks, and Anthony Galan ’14 can return to form, the Bears might just be able to control the Patriots’ offense enough to pull out some wins.

The weekend’s first game is Friday at 3 p.m.

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