Sean Cabrera (3) pitching against James Madison University in last Friday’s 9 to 5 win over the Dukes. Photo By Peter Flint

Fresh off a home victory against the James Madison Dukes, the Patriots stumbled to capture the series against their conference foes on Saturday.

Heading into the ninth inning all tied up at eight runs each, coach Bill Brown had some words of wisdom for his Patriots.

“You’ve got to focus on playing some defense,” Brown said. “And just try to get three outs clean.”
Unfortunately for the Patriots, a collision in the outfield cost them a triple and they were not able to recover.

“When you’re the home team, you’ve always got the last at bat, so you know what you have to do,” Brown said. “We weren’t able to do it. They started off on a ball where the two kids collided in the outfield. That’s one of those fluke things where it turns into a triple right away and it’s tough to pitch out of that. And then the one kid put a swing on the ball and got it up in the air enough and out it goes. So all of a sudden you’re looking at making up three runs.”

With the score at 11-8 in favor of the Dukes, Mason knew they needed to make some big plays or the series could slip out of their hands.

“So then you come back in and say if they can do it, we can do it,” Brown said. “We swung the bat just as well as they did all day long. And we got the tying run to the plate and quite honestly the winning run to the plate. That’s all you can really ask of yourself at that point. We had the opportunity to win and it just didn’t happen for us today.”

Senior outfielder Shane Davis had a big triple and a home run in critical times to help keep the Patriots within striking distance. Staring at a full count with two outs and with runners on first and third, Davis had his chance to put the exclamation point on an all-star day.

But Davis could not wrap up the game, or the series.

“Shane’s been spectacular for us,” said Brown. “I mean, you saw what he did today. You’re talking about a home run. You’re talking about a triple, driving in critical runs. He’s done that for us on a consistent basis.”

Even though the Patriots stumbled to close out the series, they still have one more game to play.

“We have to win the series,” Brown said. “We understand where we are in the league standings. We are literally playing for our life every weekend. We really emphasize coming in here and winning this series.

Madison is a good team, they have some injuries right now but they are a very good team. And to have the opportunity to win the series is still encouraging.”

With the loss to the Dukes, the Patriots still maintain a stellar 9-4-1 record on their home turf.

“It’s a comfort level you’re familiar with, not just the field you play on, but your surroundings,” Brown said. “You know you’re in your own locker room as opposed to traveling back and forth on buses.”

In thirty years of coaching, Brown has been a part of many teams. However, none quite like this year’s version of the Patriots.

“They all differ,” Brown said. “This is kind of a team in transition. At times it has been frustrating but we also have to temper that with the fact that this is a brand new team.

On the field right now, nobody played in the same position they did a year ago. We don’t have anybody back. We’re new all the way around and it is tough because you have growing pains when that happens and we have suffered some growing pains, but the flip side is it’s exciting. You can see as you play you get better. You see what the future brings.”

Senior pitcher Thomas J. O’Grady is playing his fifth and final season with the Patriots and his time as a Patriot has had its highs and lows. In 2009, O’Grady made just one appearance before suffering a season-ending injury to his pitching elbow.

“When you have Tommy John surgery, it takes a while to come back,” Brown said. “Normally it happens to someone early in the year. It takes almost 18 months to recover. You can get back in 12 which puts you right back on the front end of the college season.

It is hard to do that so he’s persevered. That’s really almost a two-year injury for a kid. Now obviously there’s a comfort level with how he throws. He’s comfortable that he’s healthy and can do the things now that he wants to do.

“Now he’s back and I’m happy for him. T.J. O’Grady has morphed into our Friday guy. He was outstanding [on Friday]. He’s the guy who gave us a chance to even win the series. TJ’s role has evolved. He’s always been a bullpen guy for us but now he is the guy who starts off every weekend for us.”

With a good part of the season still remaining, the youthful Patriots are trying to maintain their composure.

Though they have already suffered nine losses in twelve tries to CAA opponents, Brown says the most important thing to concentrate on is living in the moment.

“We understand the math,” Brown said. “We understand what we have to do. We can make it a little bit easier on ourselves as we move through the rest of the schedule, but we just have to start somewhere.

And right now it is with winning a series. We don’t have the luxury right now of thinking ahead even a week.”