Students from Bishop Ireton High School testified in Alexandria Circuit Court yesterday that a senior had struck a sophomore with a rod or pipe, bruising his brain.

George Qreiten, charged with assaulting Patrick Smith, sat nervously listening to the testimony.

"It sounded like a wet towel being thrown against the wall . . . or a bat hitting a baseball," Brian Schmidt, 18, a recent graduate of Bishop Ireton, testified about the April 4 incident in the parking lot of the all-male Catholic school.

As did at least six other students, Schmidt testified that Qreiten struck Smith with a four-foot, shiny metal rod or pipe and then sped away in his car.

Defense attorneys contend that although Qreiten, now 18, struck Smith, 16, he did so only after being provoked repeatedly by Smith, who they called, "a bully," and "much bigger" than Qreiten.

The noontime incident led to Qreiten's expulsion from the school and to three brain operations for Smith. According to students attending the trial, it also has divided Bishop Ireton into two camps: those who believe Qreiten injured Smith without much provocation, and those who believe that Smith harassed Qreiten into striking him.

"Pretty much, Pat's friends believe him, and George's friends believe him," said James K. Duffy, a junior, who said that he attended classes with Smith. "George really isn't the most popular guy and a lot of people knew Pat because he played football."

Neurosurgeon James R. Howe told the jury that the severe blow bruised Smith's brain and caused a blood clot between his skull and brain. The doctor testified that he could not tell what, if any, permanent damage the injury would cause.

The trial, in which Qreiten, charged with felonious assault, faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years if convicted, is to continue today.