OPINION: Spring Baseball Preview


By Hogan Lepore, Staff Writer

Mason Baseball announced incoming freshman/transfer acquisitions for the upcoming 2018 season during the fall semester.

With the spring season right around the corner, head baseball coach Bill Brown has strengthened his roster to make a run to the NCAA tournament in 2018.

Last season, the Patriots held a 26-33 record (13-11 Atlantic 10 record) while having a 9-20 record at home and a 14-8 record on the road. It’s fair to say they were more comfortable away from Spuhler Field.

As a team, Mason had a .249 batting average, an on base percentage of .349 and a slugging percentage of .375 in 2017.

Coach Brown and his recruiting staff concentrated on reeling in pitching for the upcoming season as seven of the eight recruits brought in pitched in high school. This can be accredited to the absence of Tyler Zombro, who was the ace for Mason’s staff last year, posting a 2.78 ERA in 103.2 innings of work, and the hole left by 2017 senior Brock Hunter, who ate up a good amount of innings last year.

The good news for Mason is that Brian Marconi, junior, will look to be the Friday starter for Coach Brown, as Marconi pitched 80 innings, creating a 5.06 ERA last season. Marconi will definitely look to improve that stat in the spring.

Other notable pitchers returning to the rotation include two juniors, Zach Mort and Bryce Nightengale (redshirt). Mort logged the most innings (86.2) and strikeouts (68) of any returning pitcher on Mason’s roster.

Mason’s staff as a whole earned an ERA of 4.70, an opponent batting average of .276 and gave up 561 hits in 522.2 innings of work last season. While these numbers seem average, in his 36th season as Mason’s head coach, Brown knew this staff needed to get better.

Enter new recruits.

Tommy Bradley – 6’5”, 205lbs. – RHP

Daniel Brooks – 5’11”, 175lbs. – RHP/SS

Austin Cabone – 6’0”, 160lbs.- RHP

Ryan Miles – 6’1”, 180lbs. – RHP

Scott Morgan – 6’2”, 205lbs. – OF

Mason O’Mara – 6’3”, 205lbs. – RHP

James Price – 5’11”, 165lbs. – RHP

Michael Yuille – 6’3”, 210lbs. – INF/RHP

Of all these names, there are a couple to keep an eye on.

James Price played at Patriot High School. The Bristow, VA native was selected first team All-Cedar Run District, first team All-Region and first team All-Met.  The freshman was named Conference 8 Pitcher of the Year and was a member of the Virginia All-State Team during in high school as well.

Price topped out at 87 mph during his senior season. Mix in some off-speed, change up sitting at 75 mph and a curve, and you got a young talent that can develop into a great pitcher down the road.

To speculate, coach Brown could use Price in the rotation immediately, throwing the freshman into action as soon as possible to help better improve that rotation. Or the tenured coach could ease Price into a starting spot by sending him to the bullpen and having him pitch a few innings in relief. My feeling is that Price will go to the pen and get some relief innings under his belt to start, to help ensure his velocity and command, and to get him some confidence in his first ever collegiate action. Obviously, Price will not come into February as the Friday starter, but getting into that rotation as the season continues will certainly be attainable for the freshman.

Another name to remember is Austin Cabone. The graduate from Frank W. High School attained many accolades during his time with the Falcons, including being named 2017 6A Conference Player of the Year, along with being crowned the 6A Virginia State Player of the Year. Cabone tops out at 88 mph on his fastball, while his changeup can sit at 73 mph. The incoming freshman also adds a curveball to his repertoire, just as another off-speed pitch to deceive batters.

Mason has definitely changed up their rotation and bullpen. Of course, not all will pitch, but the volume of pitchers declared are a good sign for Mason fans. The Atlantic 10 will be a tough conference to win, considering the reigning champion, Davidson, reached the super regionals last year. Despite this, do not be surprised if Mason makes a late-season run to the NCAA Tournament this coming spring.

Photo Courtesy of Mason Creative Services/ Evan Cantwell