GW Baseball to Open 2012 Campaign With Visit to Stetson on Friday
Colonials Aim For Return To Atlantic 10 Tournament
Feb. 16, 2012
DeLAND, Fla. - The George Washington baseball team will open the 2012 season with a three-game series at Stetson this weekend at Melching Field starting on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Prior to departing for Florida, the Colonials' players, coaching staff and administration were afforded a unique opportunity to attend a "Managing Baseball" round-table discussion on Wednesday evening. The panel featured former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and Washington, D.C., media personalities Mike Wise, Johnny Holiday, Phil Wood and Phil Hochberg.
The lecture provided the team with an insider's look at managing a professional baseball team, stories from Torre's playing and managing days and a lively discussion on the past, present and future of Major League Baseball. Topics also discussed were player development, managerial decisions, front-office management and the business of professional athletics.
2012 George Washington Baseball Outlook
The 2012 George Washington baseball team concluded last season the same way it has each of the last 13 years, with a player selected in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.
Senior Bobby Lucas Jr. continued the proud tradition when he was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 27th round at the conclusion of last season. Lucas finished his senior season as the Atlantic 10 leader with 95 strikeouts and ranked fourth in the NCAA with 11.92 strikeouts per nine innings.
GW has won 296 games over the past 10 years while having 28 players sign professional contracts.
The 2012 Colonials feature a roster of players that each has an opportunity to continue the storied tradition. Individual accomplishments aside, eighth-year head coach Steve Mrowka is excited about the potential of his team and expects to be at the Atlantic 10 Championship in Bronx, N.Y., at the conclusion of the regular season.
"We want to finish in the top-12 of the conference and return to the Atlantic 10 Tournament," said Coach Mrowka. "Our everyday lineup has improved as we have much more depth at each position. It is going to be hard to replace arguably the best hitter in the conference in Brendon Kelliher, but we are planning on scoring some runs this year."
The Colonials, who return 25 letterwinners and eight position starters, are looking for the program's first conference-tournament berth since 2006 and NCAA Regionals appearance since 2002.
The recent announcement of the GW Department of Athletics and Recreation Strategic Plan, in addition to a newly renovated home field at Barcroft Park, ensures that the GW Baseball program will be making strides toward the top of the Atlantic 10 Conference, and ultimately the region, in the coming years.
Junior Brian Derner headlines a deep pitching staff that only lost two players to graduation last season. Derner will be the weekend ace for the Colonials in 2012 after recording three wins and 52 strikeouts in 82 innings as a sophomore.
"We expect Brian to be the cornerstone of our rotation and are expecting quality starts from him each weekend," said Coach Mrowka.
Weisberg impressed in his debut season as a freshman, finishing with two wins and 22 strikeouts in 19 appearances. The imposing 6-foot-7 right-hander is expected to make strides as a sophomore following a freshman campaign in which he gained valuable experience.
"Aaron has really improved over the summer and was worked very hard to be in our rotation. He has a good fastball and is working on developing a slider. He will be used out of the bullpen late in games as well," said Coach Mrowka.
McCarthy, who has starred as the Colonials' everyday right fielder in his first two seasons, will enter the weekend rotation as a starting pitcher as a junior in 2012. He will still start in the outfield regularly, but will be looked upon by Coach Mrowka and the rest of the roster to provide weekend consistency on the mound. McCarthy pitched 8.2 innings of relief last season with four strikeouts.
"It is a much bigger role for him (McCarthy). We are hoping he can settle into the rotation and give us some quality starts. He has a great arm, he throws hard and has a nice change-up. We are expecting big things, but he has to work on his consistency with his breaking ball," said Coach Mrowka.
Kenny O'Brien returns as the relief ace out of the bullpen. The junior southpaw led the Colonials with 24 appearances last season, finishing first among the relief corps with 47.2 innings pitched.
The sophomore duo of Craig Lejeune and Colin Milon are expected to anchor the bullpen while also providing weekday spot starts. LeJeune appeared in 14 games and made two starts while totaling 18 strikeouts in 23.1 innings, while Milon finished second on the team with 17 appearances.
Seniors Luke Mirabella and Eric Lara, along with junior Jeff Griffith and sophomore Taylor Lambke, round out the returning pitchers. Mirabella and Lara combined to total 21 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. Griffith, sidelined for the whole 2011 season with a shoulder injury, is at full strength and adds depth to an already strong bullpen.
Four newcomers, including three freshmen, round out the Colonials' pitching staff. Marco Cardone, Sean McCart and Grayson Crouse are joined by junior transfer J.T. Wauford, and all figure to contribute to the team this spring.
Senior Jimmy Best returns behind the plate for the Colonials after catching 48 games last season. A versatile threat on both offense and defense, Best hit .260 last year with seven doubles, four home runs and 23 RBIs. Defensively, he led the Atlantic 10 by throwing out 30 baserunners.
"We are looking for Jimmy to provide some leadership to the team," said Coach Mrowka. "He did a great job with the pitchers and defensively last season and we are really looking for an improved effort at the plate. We need a big year from him and are expecting big things."
Senior Ryan Thomas and junior Robbie Haben will again serve as primary backups to Best while also playing in the infield. In addition to seven starts behind the plate last season, Thomas made four starts at first base while Haben saw action at both corner infield positions.
Freshman Xavier Parkmond also joins the collection of backstops after a successful scholastic career at The Gunnery School in Connecticut. A gifted athlete, Parkmond is expected to see time in the outfield in addition to behind-the-plate duties.
Senior Brett Bowers is penciled in as the everyday third baseman after splitting time at the hot corner and shortstop as a junior. The Fairfax, Va., native finished third on the team in 2011 with three home runs, 27 RBIs and a .294 batting average.
Senior Ollie Mittag, who returns to the lineup after missing the final 13 games of last season with a forearm fracture, will start the season at second base. Mittag committed just four errors in 39 games last season for a .972 fielding percentage. He also hit .250 with seven RBIs.
Senior Matt Murakami, a transfer student from the University of Maryland who had to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, will open the 2012 season at shortstop. In two seasons at UMd., Murakami made 61 starts while appearing in 86 games. As a freshman in 2009, he finished fifth on the team with a .297 batting average, but Coach Mrowka has points to Murakami's defensive skill set as his true talent.
"Matt will be a regular at either second base or shortstop for us this season. He has good hands and a good arm and, offensively, he can hit at the top or the middle of the order. He is a great all-around player whose best tools are his defense and speed."
Junior Justin Albright, who started in 36 games last season, returns and is capable of playing either position in the middle infield. He collected 31 hits last season with 10 steals. Also a relief pitcher, he appeared in five games last season, striking out four in 4.2 innings.
Senior Stephen Oswald will open the season as the designated hitter, but his versatility ensures that he will see time elsewhere around the diamond. Last season, Oswald played in 49 games with 25 starts at designated hitter, 20 in left field, two in right field and one in center. He finished second on team with a .297 batting average, four home runs, 33 RBIs and 75 total bases and can be expected to see time at various positions in his final collegiate season.
"Stephen is coming off of a great summer season," said Coach Mrowka. "He was named an all-star in the prestigious Valley League and this fall he has really been hitting the ball well for both power and average. His defense is also much improved and we will also look to him for some relief pitching out of the bullpen."
Sophomore Owen Beightol, who made an immediate impact on the team in his freshman season by appearing in 53 games, will start the season as the opening day left fielder. Beightol proved to be a flexible threat as he logged at least one start at six different positions. He finished first on the team with 14 doubles and third with 30 RBIs while hitting .251. Beightol is also available to serve as a relief pitcher.
When not on the mound as a weekend starter, right field will be occupied by junior Tyler McCarthy, who has one of the best outfield arms in the Atlantic 10. The Jupiter, Fla., native finished tied for third in the A-10 with six outfield assists. He's also reliable at the plate where he hit .243 last season with nine doubles, a team-leading three triples, two home runs, seven steals and 23 RBIs.
A new face will patrol center field following the graduation of two-time Atlantic 10 All-Conference selection Brendon Kelliher. Junior transfer Ryan Hickey joins the Colonials after transferring from Oakton Community College (Iowa). He hit .324 with 16 doubles, eight triples and 29 RBIs as a sophomore with the Raiders and will serve as an important piece to the GW lineup.
Junior Kyle Gelling will see time at left field and designated hitter after appearing in 41 games as a sophomore. He hit .252 with five doubles, one home run and 11 RBIs. He concluded last season on a five-game hitting streak and will be a familiar face in the Colonials' lineup throughout the season.
Freshmen backstop Xavier Parkmond and Grant Brown will also see time in the outfield. Brown was a three-year letterwinner at Bethel Park High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he hit .430 with a school-record seven home runs as a senior.