The 2023 baseball squad came out to celebrate a spectacular campaign in a familiar setting.
BY ALI ALI, STAFF WRITER
Picture this: A rowdy arcade filled with video games and vibrant colors, and nestled in the back of such a fun environment, a dining hall reserved for Mason Baseball. On Nov. 10, the group celebrated their 2023 season with a conference championship ring ceremony. The venue was Dave and Buster’s located in Fair Oaks Mall.
It is not a familiar path to secure a low-tier berth in a conference tournament, dominate, make it to the championship matchup and win it all. The George Mason Patriots baseball program did just that. Keynote speakers at this event included Deputy Athletic Director Todd Bramble and Head Coach Shawn Camp.
While addressing a crowd at Dave and Buster’s with the program’s players and coaches, administrative staff, recruits, family members and club donors, Camp gave the audience his thanks for their contributions to the team as well as an appraisal to this past season. “It was a magical season for us,” Camp said. “Everything goes to our players… you guys are everything to our program because you had more grit than anybody I have ever been around in sports. I appreciate you guys!”
Camp is not the only one to hold such admiration for the team as his players held the same feelings for the first-year coach. Speaking about his head coach, center fielder Jordan Smith laid out how impactful Camp was for the team. “The atmosphere was absolutely electric, and we get it from Coach. We kind of just bounce off him. He’s a big, big energy ball… so when you’ve got a guy like that it helps the team a lot,” Smith said.
After speaking to the crowd, the coaches, players and athletic training staff were handed their own championship ring. Once that happened, each player took pictures with the coaches and family members behind the center podium adorned by the conference championship trophy.
The event was mostly undeterred by the noise surrounding the play area of the venue. To someone who does not understand why Dave and Buster’s was the ideal location for this ceremony to take place, Camp said a trip to Dave and Buster’s sparked the team’s turnaround. “We win one game, lose one game, win two, lose two…,” Camp said, “We could never get over the hump. In college baseball, it is really hard to win. It does not matter who you are.”
It was after this first retreat to Dave and Buster’s that the Patriots would go on to amass a 22-6 record which included their run in both the Atlantic 10 conference tournament and NCAA tournament play. The team recorded 164 stolen bases and utility player South Trimble led the team with 30 stolen bases.
“As a team, we did want to steal a lot of bases this year. We knew that we could exploit other teams by doing that as that was a big part of our game: to get runners in scoring position,” Trimble said.
Both Camp and Coach Ryan Ricci were a part of Bill Brown’s coaching staff prior to 2023. Ricci served as a graduate assistant and currently serves as Pitching Coach for the staff. He spoke to Fourth Estate on the dynamic Brown and Camp have had for him taking the reins as Pitching Coach. “They both bring different skill sets to the table and I think they both complemented each other very well. I’ve just been fortunate to be around those guys and learn from two brilliant mentors like those two.”
Catcher Connor Dykstra, who recorded a team-high 48 RBIs and 18 doubles in 2023, took a couple of hits at home plate throughout the season. When asked about those incidents Dykstra said, “I felt like my teammates were counting on me… it’s not going to hurt forever. I just wanted to be out there as much as I can and I’m not going to let a little bruise keep me off the field because I like being out there with the guys and helping them win.”
Right fielder Derek Wood’s walk-off double against St. Joseph’s sealed a conference tournament berth for the Patriots. “Throughout the fall and in those early weeks in the spring, just getting ready trying to make the case for right field, I felt like it did a pretty good job of that. The ability to put my best foot forward and do whatever I could to be a valued member of the team was what really mattered to me,” Wood said.
Ricci chimed in and spoke highly of one pitcher who could see some work in the upcoming campaign, Nick Martins. “He had a great fall for us although last spring didn’t go the way he wanted to… But he worked extremely hard all summer and was pounding the strike zone throwing off-speed pitches over the plate and he is definitely in the running for one of our starting jobs in the spring.”
After a great 2023 season, Mason will look to make noise, just like the atmosphere of Dave and Buster’s, and build another solid run in 2024.