Feb. 22, 2006
WASHINGTON, DC - The George Washington University baseball team's season opener at James Madison University, scheduled for Wednesday, February 22, has been postponed until Thursday due to inclement weather. The first pitch is set for 2:30 pm with Colonials' senior RHP Josh Wilkie (8-3, 3.08 ERA in '05) scheduled to take the mound at JMU's Long Field/Mauck Stadium.
GW defeated the Dukes both times they met last season and currently hold a 15-game winning streak against Colonial Athletic Association teams (dating back to 2004).
The Colonials are in search of a third straight Atlantic 10 regular-season title and a seventh consecutive conference tournament appearance. In order to achieve this unprecedented goal, they'll have to do so by relying less on their offense and look to their pitching to carry them through.
The Colonials led the conference or finished second last year in six offensive categories, including home runs, hits, RBI and runs scored. After losing A-10 Player of the Year Brad Rosenblat and all-conference first-team member Ryan Roberson to graduation, representing almost one-third of the team's run production, the focus of GW's direction and success in 2006 will be its pitching.
In his first season with GW last year, head coach Steve Mrowka guided the Colonials to a 41-19 record and to within one win of the A-10 Championship. This season, Mrowka aims to take the Colonials to their first title since 2002 with a mix of seasoned starting pitching and a balanced lineup that promises to showcase the most aggressive hitting and base running the program has ever seen.
GW enters 2006 with an experienced four-man starting rotation with each member capable of earning all-conference honors. Junior RHP Derrik Lutz (8-1, 2.79 ERA) was named all-conference first team each of his first two seasons, and after leading the A-10 in winning percentage (.889) and standing third in both ERA and opposing batting average (.206), he is poised to take his career, along with the Colonials, to new heights in '06.
Seniors Wilkie and LHP Dan Pfau (4-4, 3.00 ERA) also are expected to rack up innings and wins as starters for GW this season. A conference ERA title winner as a sophomore and an A-10 All-Championship selection last year, Wilkie will play a vital role in the team's success. Serving as the Colonials primary left-handed reliever for most of 2005, Pfau was moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation late in the season and will sustain that role in 2006. Rounding out GW's top four is sophomore RHP Brian Frazier (7-1, 4.06 ERA), who started nine games as a rookie in '05 and posted the conference's second-best winning percentage (.875).
GW's bullpen in 2006 will feature two returnees, senior RHP Justin Prinstein (0-0, 6.23 ERA) and junior RHP Derek Haese (2-1, 4.50 ERA), and five freshmen fighting to earn valuable innings. RHP Pat Lehman (Fairlawn, NJ) , RHP Justin Dignelli (Katonah, NY), RHP Tim Sexton (Baltimore, MD), RHP Jim Duggan (Jefferson, MD) and RHP Isaac Bissell (Putney, VT) could all contend for major relief innings this season.
Sophomore Andrew Abokhair (.250, 6 RBI) started 11 games as GW's backup last year and is in line to replace the Colonials' starter for the previous four seasons, Joe Michalski (.255-10-32). Adding depth to the position will be junior Jay Quinn, who missed most of '04 and '05 due to injury. Quinn has significantly improved over the last two years and should serve as a valuable backup. Sophomore Whitey Wallace (two starts, .133-0-1) and transfer Andrew Haberern (Trinity College) also will serve as backup catchers and both add depth in the outfield and first base, respectively.
The departure of all-conference slugger Roberson (.423-16-52) leaves an enormous hole at first base. Mrowka will most likely not decide on the permanent starter until the middle of the season. Freshmen Tim Reeves (Cumming, GA) and Lehman are very athletic infielders who can provide good defense and speed. Sophomore Gavin Swanson, Quinn, and Haberern are versatile athletes that are being groomed to add depth at first base. All of the first basemen are big and strong, and can provide power for the offense.
GW returns juniors Michael Parker (.307-0-25) and Mickey Shupin (.310-0-14) to anchor the middle infield. Parker is a strong defensive infielder who is expected to hit at the top of the order to get on base and score runs. Shupin also will hit at the top of the order and exploit his speed that nabbed 17 bases in 22 attempts. Both players had outstanding second halves in 2005, as Parker batted .378, posted a .495 on-base percentage and stole nine bases in 10 attempts. Shupin hit .373 producing 12 of his 14 total RBI. Freshmen Bryan Hwang (Northvale, NJ) and Doug Eizen (Philadelphia, PA), as well as junior walk-on Jeremy Hall (Houston,TX) will provide depth across the infield as all three have solid gloves and are excellent base runners. Each should be a key contributor off the bench.
Senior Tom Shanley takes his .366 batting average in 2005 (third best in A-10) from second base to third base in '06. He'll hit in the meat of GW's order and be relied upon as a major run producer. Shanley is an outstanding defensive infielder that will serve as the team's most experienced hitter. Reeves, Eizen and Hwang could each see time as backups at the hot corner.
GW said goodbye to its first conference player of the year in 2005 when right fielder Rosenblat, who led the A-10 in numerous offensive categories including home runs (17), RBI (57), runs (66) and doubles (20), graduated. The Colonials do return senior Matt Owens (.230-7-25) to center field for the fourth straight year. Owens came on strong down the stretch in 2005, and will add power and speed to the Colonial lineup. Sophomore Charlie Kruer (260-4-21) cracked the starting lineup as the everyday left fielder his rookie season and will reprise that role in `06. Swanson could also see significant time in right. Both Kruer and Swanson have the ability to drive in runs from the middle of the order. Wallace, as well as freshmen Matt Boyd (Rockville, MD) and Chris Marsicano (Old Tappan, NJ), will create depth for the Colonial outfield. Both Wallace and Boyd will contribute speed while Marsicano offers a solid left-handed bat that could contribute right away.
In his first season as a Division I head coach and GW skipper, Mrowka guided the Colonials to the A-10's highest win total (41), the West Division Title and the conference tournament's championship game. Mrowka heads into the 2006 campaign with his first recruiting class at GW and his offensive and defensive systems now fully in place. Pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Jim Mason also returns for his second season, looking to build on GW's second best A-10 team earned run average of 4.01 from a year ago. New to the staff are hitting coach Don Norris (Georgia '92) and volunteer assistant Dan Hodgson (Kenyon '01). Norris comes to GW after a successful five-year stint at the University of Georgia. Norris was the Bulldog's third base coach during their College World Series run in 2004 and also earned a National Championship ring as a player in 1990. Norris' appointment at GW marks the second time he'll coach under the direction of Mrowka as he also served as his assistant for five years when Mrowka was head coach at Georgia College and State University. Hodgson previously coached at Kenyon College and GC&SU. He will primarily work with the hitters and outfielders.