The winless Virginia baseball team takes on equally-struggling George Mason this afternoon at the U.Va. Baseball Field, with both squads still looking for their first victory.
The Cavaliers (0-3-1) still are looking to right themselves after a quartet of unsuccessful outings, including a three-game disaster against No. 4 Louisiana State to open the season and a sloppy 14-14 tie with Old Dominion Wednesday.
"It's not been a successful beginning to the season," Cav Coach Dennis Womack said. "I'm realistic about where we are, and we need a lot of improvement."
Like Virginia, George Mason (0-3) struggled in its first week of play. The Patriots lost their season opener 15-6 to the College of Charleston Friday and dropped both ends of a doubleheader to Charleston Southern Saturday. Mason, a program with a tradition of high-powered offenses, scored just 11 runs in its first three games.
"For a veteran team, we played very poorly," GMU Coach Bill Brown said. "We knew what we needed to do and, quite honestly, we didn't do much of anything."
While the Patriots hope for more production from their bats, the Cavs will try to iron out the problems they have had with their pitching and defense. Because of inconsistency on the mound and 10 errors committed in the field, Virginia has given up an overwhelming 48 runs in its first four games.
"We need to improve on our pitching," Womack says. "Our pitching staff is well aware of needing to throw more strikes ... and to stay ahead of hitters. Also we need to catch and throw the ball better defensively. We would have won against ODU if we had played better defense."
A solid outing by junior lefthander Jon Metzger (0-1) could go a long way toward curing the Cav pitching woes. Although he was on the losing end of a 13-2 game at LSU, Metzger has one of the strongest arms among Virginia's experienced starters.
"We need our starters to give us lots of innings," Womack said. "We need our starters to step up. We have good arms, and they need to give us lots of innings."
The Cavaliers will face Patriot sophomore lefthander Travis Hardman, who will take the mound today for the first time this season. After three games this weekend, George Mason's pitching staff is tired.
"Hopefully he can throw strikes," Brown said. "That's what we need."
After scoring 14 runs against ODU, Virginia hopes to bring that same aggressive offense to the plate.
The Cavalier offense is led by junior cleanup hitter Jon Benick, who set a Virginia single-season hit record last year and smacked a pair of doubles against ODU. The Cavs also will rely on sophomore first baseman David Stone, who was second on the team in hitting last season behind Benick.
But the George Mason offense, powered by senior infielders Greg Filson, Mark Gibbs and Brian Forthofer, has explosive potential as well. Each team needs a strong performance from its pitchers to capture that elusive first win.
"To win, we need to throw the ball better, catch better and have the right attitude at the plate," Womack said. "It's a pretty simple formula for most teams: Play hard and be efficient. We play hard, but we just have to play better"