College Notebook: Locals Help Spark JMU’s 4-0 Start


February 20 - Three starting pitchers from Northern Virginia started in victories over the weekend for a staff that has posted a 2.50 ERA, and three other area natives have combined for 15 hits and eight RBI as James Madison has jumped out to a 4-0 start.

Kevin Kelly (Paul VI Catholic) struck out seven in five scoreless innings and Nick Stewart (Rock Ridge) fanned seven in 4.1 innings in Friday’s doubleheader sweep of Norfolk State. On Sunday, left-hander Joe Williams (Battlefield) made his Dukes debut after missing the past two seasons with an injury and while sitting out a year after transferring from George Mason, tossing five scoreless innings in a 6-5 win over the Spartans.

“I was really happy for Joe today,” James Madison coach Marlin Ikenberry said in a release by the school. “He came out and was trying to find his rhythm early after not pitching for two years.

In yesterday’s 3-1 win over Longwood, designated hitter Michael Morgan (Paul VI Catholic) hit a go-ahead two-run triple in the fifth inning and first baseman Brady Harju (Battlefield) provided the final margin when he scored Morgan with a sacrifice fly later in the frame. "I am pleased with the way that our guys responded to being down in this ballgame,” Ikenberry said in the school’s release. “It was the first time that we had trailed this season and I think the guys handled that very well.”

Harju, a transfer from Frederick Community College, is 5-for-14 (.357) with three doubles and three RBI, while Morgan is 5-for-16 (.313) and paces the team with two triples and seven runs. Freshman second baseman Kyle Novak (Madison), the 2018 NOVA Nine Player of the Year, is off to a fast start in his rookie season with the Dukes. The left-handed swinging Novak has batted second or fourth in each game and is 5-for-15 (.333) with two doubles and three RBI.

James Madison, which had today’s game at Richmond cancelled due to snow, will host Lafayette for a three-game series this weekend.

Mason’s Driscoll Has Scouts’ Attention as Draft Stock Continues to Rise

George Mason junior catcher Logan Driscoll (Lake Braddock) homered over the 415-foot center field wall at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL in a season-opening win on Friday and caught every inning as the Patriots swept their three games over Iowa, Marshall and Villanova.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound backstop continues to gain the attention of Major League Baseball scouts, and George Mason coach Bill Brown said over a dozen were in attendance at each of the team’s games in Florida. “There were a ton of pro guys in to watch Logan play,” said Brown, who added that Driscoll’s homer struck three-quarters of the way up the batter’s eye. “A guy I know very well who has watched a ton of spring training games there said he’s only seen two or three balls go where he hit it … He did nothing to hurt his stock.”

Osceola County Stadium is the former spring training home of the Houston Astros and now serves as the home park for a Single-A Florida State League club. Driscoll was a first-team all-conference pick last spring and was named by Baseball America as the A-10’s preseason Player of the Year.

The Patriots’ 3-0 start is in stark contrast to the beginning of their 2018 season, when they dropped their first eight games before rebounding to finish 29-27 and advance to the Atlantic-10 Conference championship game.

“We ended up being a pretty good team, but our record really didn’t indicate it because we had started so poorly,” Brown said. “So our returners were really dialed in this weekend, and I’m proud of them for taking ownership of really wanting to start strong.”

Senior third baseman Greg Popatak went 5-for-11 (.455) with seven RBI to pace George Mason offensively, while starting pitchers Jared DiCesare (Chantilly), Nick Zegna and Brian Marconi surrendered just four earned runs on 18 hits in 16 innings.

“Popatak had a huge weekend,” Brown said. “The last few weeks last year, something just clicked with Greg defensively. He was lights out as a third baseman, and not coincidentally, his offense took off as well. And it’s nice to see it carry over and translate into this year too.

Marymount Splits, Mary Washington Posts Shutout to Open Seasons

Marymount split a Sunday doubleheader with Widener (PA) at the Nationals Youth Academy in D.C. and Mary Washington posted an 8-0 shutout of Methodist (N.C.) yesterday as the area’s Division III teams opened their 2019 seasons.

Saints junior second baseman Mike Ferrara had two hits - including a solo homer - in Marymount’s 2-1 win in the second game. The Pennsylvania native came in to score what proved to be the game’s winning run on a seventh-inning throwing error and was named the first-ever Player of the Week for the new Atlantic East Conference.

Three pitchers - starter Ryan Bergenhagen and relievers Kenny Frank and Matthew Schneider - combined to limit Widener to two hits over seven innings in the second game.

The Eagles, meanwhile, pounded 14 hits after having their season-opener moved up a day due to the incoming snow storm. Senior first baseman Stephen Johnston (C.D. Hylton) led the way, going 3-for-4 with a walk and three RBI. Starter Robert Cross scattered three hits over six scoreless innings to earn the win, with Hank Biggs (Woodgrove) tossing three scoreless innings in relief.

Both teams return to action this weekend, when Marymount plays Stevenson (MD), Washington (MD) and Gallaudet in the Bison Baseball Classic in D.C. and Mary Washington will host Oneonta (N.Y.) for a three-game series.

Menendez Serving as Early-Season Workhorse for Wake Forest Staff

Sophomore reliever Antonio Menendez (Herndon) has appeared in three of Wake Forest’s first four games and earned the save in Sunday’s 5-3 win over Georgetown.

Menendez, who struggled with a 9.99 ERA in 25 appearances during his freshman campaign, has a 2.45 ERA with four strikeouts in 3.2 innings for the Demon Deacons (2-2).

Another area player, Michael Ludowig (Briar Woods), is also off to a good start with Wake Forest. The 2017 NOVA Nine Player of the Year after leading the Falcons to the Class 5 state championship, Ludowig is 4-for-11 (.364) with two walks, a double and two RBI in three games.

Christopher Newport’s Herbert Earns Win in 1st Career Start

Junior right-hander Teddy Herbert (Washington-Lee) made his first career start in Christopher Newport’s 19-3 win over Oglethorpe (GA) on Friday, earning the victory after striking out six and allowing one run on two hits over five innings.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Herbert, who pitched a scoreless inning in relief in a 16-1 win over Ferrum the previous weekend, has worked his way into the Captains’ rotation after making just four appearances over his first two seasons.

Christopher Newport (5-0), which was ranked No. 13 in the NCBWA/D3Baseball.com preseason poll, has been dominant to begin the season. The club’s pitchers have compiled a 1.40 ERA in 45 innings, and the Captain lineup is hitting a cumulative .331 with a .462 on-base percentage while averaging 13.4 runs.

Player of the Week: Brenton Doyle, Shepherd (Kettle Run)

Shepherd’s Brenton Doyle (Kettle Run) went 7-for-11 over three games last weekend and has been named the magazine’s Collegiate Player of the Week, sponsored by Northern Virginia Orthodontics.

A first-team Division II All-America selection last spring, Doyle picked up where he left off to begin his junior season. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior outfielder totaled three doubles, three RBI and four stolen bases as the Rams took two of three games from Tiffin (OH).

He enters the week hitting .486 with seven extra-base hits, six RBI and six steals in nine games.

Sponsor: The magazine’s College Notebook is sponsored by the R&D Baseball Academy. For more information on the academy, visit its website at www.rdbaseballacademy.com.

Photo of Jared DiCesare courtesy of George Mason Athletics