Vanderbilt 7, George Mason 3
Playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993, the George Mason baseball team had the misfortune to open against Vanderbilt's Jeremy Sowers, one of the best college pitchers in the nation. The junior left-hander lived up his billing, cruising through eight innings in a 7-3 win at the U-Va. Baseball Stadium.
George Mason (39-18) committed four errors behind starter Eric Gibbons, including three in the four-run inning that helped Vanderbilt (43-17) take a 7-1 lead into the ninth. That was more than enough cushion for Sowers, who allowed four hits, walked two and struck out 11.
The teams sat through a three-hour rain delay before finally getting started at 6:03 p.m. Virginia and Princeton, the other two teams in this four-team region, were postponed in the nightcap and will play the first game on Saturday.
"You almost take [Sowers] for granted because your expectation level of him is to pitch so well every time out," said Tim Corbin, the second-year coach who led the Commodores to their first NCAA tournament berth in 24 years. "That's a good hitting team. They've got some good numbers -- four kids with double-digit home runs -- and at times he made them look common."
Sowers (10-5) was unfazed by the delay, but George Mason Coach Bill Brown said his players seemed to lose focus.
"We've been a pretty good defensive team all year," Brown said, "although you wouldn't have believed it, just looking at how we handled it tonight. . . . Those are things that I take upon myself, because prepared teams don't make those mistakes. I'm disappointed in myself that we probably weren't at a higher level when the first pitch was made."
"They outplayed us in every facet," shortstop Jeff Palumbo said.
Gibbons (6-5) allowed seven runs, eight hits and five walks in seven innings, though only three of the runs were earned. He gave up two runs in the bottom of the first, despite keeping the Commodores from hitting the ball out of the infield. Vanderbilt's first two batters reached base, Patriots catcher Robby Jacobsen threw the ball into center field on a double steal, and Cesar Nicolas followed moments later with an RBI groundout.
George Mason's best chance came after Bruce Baldwin and Palumbo led off the third inning with singles and Matt Cooksey followed with a walk. No. 3 hitter Chris Looze, a first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association selection, struck out swinging, but the pitch was wild and Baldwin scored from third.
Sowers made sure that was all the Patriots would get, striking out Nick Shimer and inducing Adam Innerst to fly out to end the inning. Looze, Shimer and Innerst -- George Mason's Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters -- were a combined 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts.