By John Powell, Asst. Sports Editor

So baseball season is finally in full swing. And softball season is too for that matter. As much as I love sports in general, as well as George Mason University Patriots basketball, I have to say that baseball is my passion.

I have been playing the sport since I was in fifth grade, since I saw my first baseball game. I went to Atlanta for a school competition and found myself in Turner Field, the home of the big league team, decked out in a new home Braves jersey and ready to learn about what would become my team.

I brought the game back home with me and played on those teams that we all remember when there was no competition; we were all playing for fun. Then, I hit middle school and played for my high school’s junior varsity team, where I learned how to play third base.

Aside from all the sexual jokes that come with playing baseball with a team of prepubescent teenagers (don’t worry, this is not “In Bed with Billy”), I loved the team.

My best memories come from the game: the late-night workouts at the gym, the early-morning workouts too, going out to eat before and after games and practices with the team, not to mention the feel of hitting a baseball off the sweet spot of a baseball bat and watching it fly.

My best achievements came through the game, being one of the team’s co-captains and gaining two all-conference awards for my play.

The game got me into journalism too, where I worked on my high school yearbook staff for two years, one as the sports editor, the reason I am the assistant sports editor here at Broadside.

So, here I am in college. I am a coach at my old high school, even working with some of the kids I used to play with. I have been practicing with the club baseball team, one who is just starting up. I even play intramural softball on weekends. Needless to say, when spring has sprung, baseball season is a must for me.

So now, after watching the school’s baseball team, one whose home opener was delayed for too long due to all the terrible weather that we experienced over the winter, I feel like I know enough to be able to have some expectations for the team.

Obviously, the team has lost some of its strongest players, including their big power man. They were nationally ranked last year, but with their losses, that would be a big feat to accomplish for this year’s team.

Senior third baseman Mark Hill has taken the lead of the team. He leads the team with a .493 batting average and is second on the team with a .725 slugging percentage. Statistically, he is the team’s third-worst fielder, only managing a .877 fielding percentage, but his incredible powers with a stick in his hand make him invaluable.

Senior middle infielder Ryan Soares leads the team in power numbers so far. He leads with an .810 slugging percentage, 64 total bases, 32 RBIs, and six home runs. He is also a key defensive player, only making three errors in a team-leading 64 attempts. His large range and strong arm make him a vacuum for balls hit up the middle.

On the pitching side, senior right-handed pitcher Kevin Crum seems to be the go-to starter, going 3-0 with a 5.33 earned run average in six starts. Freshman left-handed pitcher Chris O’Grady has made five appearances, with three starts, and leads the starters with a 3.80 ERA. Sophomore right-
handed pitcher A.J. Johnson has solidified his identity as the team’s closer by getting four saves in eight appearances, maintaining a 0.00 ERA in nine innings.

So here we go, it is time for the conference predictions.

The team currently sits at 1-2 after dropping the final game of the series to the James Madison Dukes over the weekend. They are in second place with a .632 overall win percentage behind the William & Mary Tribe, who has a .667 overall win percentage.

So far, no team has dominated the conference.

The Dukes won the coaches’ preseason poll for the conference championship over the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks, with Mason sitting at sixth place. The Dukes had a slow early start, but have seemed to come into form recently.

Here are the predictions: No. 1 UNC-Wilmington, No. 2 James Madison, No. 3 Old Dominion, and No. 4 Mason. Everyone else can finish behind the Patriots.

It is the best time of the year, so to all of you baseball fans and players, play ball!