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March 1, 2012

Baseball heads to George Mason for three

BULLDOGS FACE PATRIOTS IN THREE-GAME WEEKEND SERIES

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SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Looking to snap a four-game losing streak, the Bryant University baseball team travels to Fairfax, Va., to face George Mason in a three-game weekend series starting on Friday, March 2.

After winning their first two games of the season, the Bulldogs (2-4) have dropped four consecutive games. Last weekend, the Black and Gold were swept by Florida Gulf Coast, 5-4, 8-1, 5-1, in Fort Myers, Fla.

Of the four losses on the season, last Friday's loss to the Eagles probably stings the most. The Bulldogs battled back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to take a 4-3 lead heading into the ninth inning. FGCU rallied in the ninth, however, capitalizing on a pair of Bryant errors to score two runs and win the game. The Bulldogs never recovered from the heartbreak, collecting just two runs on six hits over the next two games.

Through six games, the Bulldogs have been led on the mound by junior Peter Kelich (Jackson, N.J.). Named the Northeast Conference Pitcher of the Week earlier this week, Kelich has thrown 12 innings in two starts, allowing four runs (two earned) with 12 strikeouts. He limited FGCU to three runs on six hits over six innings last Friday but was saddled with a no decision.

Kelich is slated to start game one on Friday and will be followed by sophomores Joseph Michaud (Milford, Conn.) and Craig Schlitter (Guilford, Conn.) on Saturday and Sunday. Michaud has started two games this season, allowing seven runs (three earned) over 10.2 innings. After pitching seven shutout innings in his first start, he last just 3.2 innings against the Eagles, striking out four and walking four. Schlitter lasted just 4.1 innings against FGCU but pitched well, allowing three unearned runs on three hits while striking out five.

Offensively, Dan Muscatello (Hopkinton, Mass.) leads the Bulldogs with a .333 batting average and a .455 on-base percentage. He has reached base in all six games so far this season, collecting six hits and three walks. Connor Carignan (Norwich, Conn.) leads the Black and Gold with four runs scored and has drawn a team-high four walks. The Bulldogs have just three extra-base hits in their first six games though, with all three coming in the 16-2 loss to Marshall.

George Mason (4-3) is coming off a successful weekend at the Baseball at the Beach Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They dropped an 8-5 decision to N.C. State on last Friday but finished the weekend with wins over Iowa, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. All three of the Patriots' losses have come by three runs or less. George Mason is trying to rebound from a tough 2011 in which they finished in the basement of the CAA.

The Patriots are led by reigning CAA Player of the Week Brig Tison, Dan Schafferman and Zack Helgeson. Tison is hitting .448 with five RBI, six runs and four stolen bases, Schafferman has two home runs and seven RBI and Helgeson has four home runs and seven RBI. In fact, Helgeson's only four hits this season have cleared the fence, giving him 19 in his two-year career with the Patriots. As a team, Mason has hit seven home runs in the first seven games.

On the mound, Mason sports a 2.55 team ERA and features a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Anthony Montefusco is the staff ace, allowing two runs over 13 innings and averaging a strikeout per inning. He's the scheduled starter on Friday and will be followed by Ryan Pfaeffle and AJ Johnson. Pfaeffle sports a 0.75 ERA after two starts, allowing just one run and striking out eight over 12 innings while Johnson is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in two starts. Jake Kalish has made two appearances out of the bullpen and has not allowed a run in six innings.

First pitch in game one of the series is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday at Spuhler Field. Games two and three are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.

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