With Mason baseball's first home series this weekend, Coach Bill Brown weighs in on the 2013 season

Baseball opens their home schedule Friday vs. Iona University (Photo courtesy of Mason Athletics).

Prior to boarding the team bus and heading south to Charleston, S.C. for The Citadel Memorial Challenge, George Mason University baseball coach Bill Brown, entering his 33rd season, sat in his office looking over some papers in preparation for the 2013 season.

For Brown, who has coached the Patriots to 873 wins throughout his tenure, the expectations for the upcoming season were the same as they have been in years past.

“Our expectations really are pretty much always the same, in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish and what we want to be at the end of the year,” Brown said. “We want to start the year to put ourselves in a position to be an at-large regional team and we go from there.”

This season, the Patriots will have six new players from the incoming freshmen class and one red-shirted freshman.

“I really like our freshmen class. It’s a group of kids that I think are going to, across the board, really contribute this year,” said Brown, a Mason graduate from 1980. “Some probably more than others as with all freshmen class, but they’re all going to get the opportunity to play and quite honestly we expect that group to be productive and help us win.”

Though Brown expects the freshmen on his roster to contribute, he also expects improved production from his returning players as well.

“We had a couple guys last year, who probably had, what I would consider and what they would consider off years,” Brown said. “I think a guy that you can look that started out and had some really tough luck, who I think is gonna have a huge year, is Blaise Fernandez. Chris Cook is another kid.”

The largest hole for Mason will be the one left by the departure of Chris O’Grady, who took over as the team’s closer last season and tied the school’s single-season record for saves with 14. O’Grady would then be drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 10th round of the MLB draft.

“We’ll probably end up doing it the same way that we did it last year when Chris [O’Grady] became our closer,” Brown said. “We went into the season with some ideas in mind; he got a chance to finish a game, finished it and just got in a role that he loved. Somebody will do the same thing, somebody will step up. We have plenty people who have the ability to do it and somebody will step up and take that.”

 In a preseason poll, Mason was picked to finish fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association. After a winless three-game road trip to start the season, Brown and the Patriots prepare for their first series at home, a weekend series against Iona University that begins on Friday, Feb. 22, at 2:30 p.m.

“It’s good to play at home; if you look at our record we’ve been very successful at Spuhler Field,” Brown said. “We’ll be ready to play Iona and I would expect us to have a really good weekend.”

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