Catholic University's baseball team advanced to the NCAA regionals last season. Then its coach retired, and Athletic Director Jack Kvancz turned to the team's graduating captain, catcher Tim McCormick, as the new coach.

The decision to hire so young a coach was controvesial at the time. But McCormick had guided the Cardinals to a 13-5 record going into yesterday's game against George Mason and they appear to be a sure bet to make the ECAC tournament, the preliminary step to the NCAA playoffs.

McCormick, 23, calls this season a learning process for both himself and his players. He has gained their respect. Yesterday, however, was one of those examples of the learning process, for both.

George Mason, behind Stan Reese's two homer runs and six RBI, pounded the Cardinals, 12'7, at Brookland Stadium. CU, coming off a big weekend series in New York, was not sharp.

Mason, now 23-10, is not the kind of pushover that can be beaten on a bad day. So, in the bottom of the eighth inning, after Mason scored four runs to break a 7-all deadlock, McCormick got into an arguement withplate umpire Bill Bradford, over a ball-and-strike call.

The purpose for McCormick was two-fold, to back up his players and try to get them playing with more emotion. It had worked once before this rookie season when MCCormick sacrified himself and untracked the team for a victory.

Instead, this time, it resulted in a CU player being ejected, then both McCormick and assistant Mike Maher were banised and, finally, Bradford called the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth because of "darkness." That coincided with CU shortstop Alfredo Perez being called out on strikes and then unleasing his verbal wrath on the unpire.

In short, McCormick's ploy back-fired and turned into what is nicely known as a spectacle.

When McCormick returned to the bench, he huddled his players and told them: "If I get thrown out it's for a reason. What happened out there was bush. You let me worry about that kind of stuff."

McCormick was near tears afterward, not for what he did, but what resulted.

The turmoil started when Mark Travaglini was called out on strikes on a the CU bench riding the plate umpire. After another questionable ball-strike call, McCormick wandered two-thirds of the way from the bench to hoine pitch that appeared low. That set off plate.

At that point, Bradford said: "You keep them quiet or I'm going to keep them quiet. You stand up. You go."

Mike Giglio, a relief pitcher, stood up but said nothing. Bradford thumbed him out of the game. And that set off McCornick.!

How do you know he did anything?" the coach snarled and repeated time after time as he pursued Bradford. He finally was ejected, and then Masher followed, expelled by base umpire Jack McHugh.

"When an unpire yells at a bench and throws out the first kid he sees stand up, as a coach you have to take up for your players," McCormick said. "That umpire overreacted."

McCormick explained that as far as he is concerned, keeping credibility with the players, is his most important duty as a coach, that if he doesn't all the Xs and Os go for nothing. "What you have then," he said, "is turmoil."

And that was one of the major reasons why Kvanoz said he bypassed older, more experienced coaches and hired McCormick.

There were some early adjustments during fall baseball between McCormick and the players. The Cardinals got off a 7-7 start and had lost the first game of a doubleheader to Georgetown McCormick benched the entire starting team.

'That changed the attitude on our team after what he did," said center Fielder Val VanDeventer, who was five for five yesterday with a grand-slam homer. "We became more agrressive. That he would want to win so badly to bench all the starters probably affected us. In fact, it did.

"There was no big problem adjusting to him as coach, instead of team-mate," continued VanDeventer. "I always looked up to him as a player. I respected him."