It wasn’t the ending that the George Mason High School baseball team would have preferred, but it is one they will have to endure, as a 2-1 loss to Rappahannock in the semifinals of the Bull Run District tournament ended the Mustangs’ season.
For the second time this year, Rappahannock left-hander Ethan Russell dominated Mason on the mound after escaping by allowing just one run in the first inning of the game. With the Mustangs’ bats silenced for the final six innings, the Panthers scraped out two runs with two outs in the third inning that proved to be the difference.
With runners on second and third, a grounder to first could have ended the inning with a force out at first. Instead, a throw to the plate couldn’t catch the runner coming from third and the inning continued. A second run scored thereafter when Mendenhall picked the base runner off first, but the runner from third sprinted home while Mason had the other Panther in a run down.
“I’m going to have nightmares the rest of my life,” Mason Head Coach Adam Amerine said of the inning.
Those two runs would keep the Mustangs from winning the game and, ultimately, from the Region B Tournament that begins next week. Had Mason beaten Rappahannock, the team would have secured at least the No. 2 seed from the Bull Run District, as regular season champion Strasburg, already assured of a berth in the Regionals, advanced to the district final over Manassas Park.
The trend of alternating between offensive fireworks and fizzles held once again for the Mustangs, who opened the first round of the Bull Run tournament with a 12-1 victory over Clarke County. In that contest, Mason was led by a perfect day at the plate by junior Alex Prewitt (3-for-3, three stolen bases, three runs scored), senior Matt Dorr (2-for-4, three RBI) and senior Derek Blodgett (2-for-3, two RBI). However, the bats abandoned Mason against Rappahannock and a strong outing from senior Byron Mendenhall (three hits and one walk over six innings) went for naught.
“We took too many bad at bats and didn’t put any pressure on them,” Amerine said.
The loss marks the final game in a Mason uniform for the teams’ seven seniors, including Mendenhall. The team will also bid farewell to Dorr, Blodgett, Will Marshall, Jimmy Piscopo, Joe Muskett and Sean Follin. Mendenhall and Piscopo, who have both signed on to play at Randolph-Macon next season, will be particularly missed both at the top of the lineup and on the mound.
“Those two are going to be a huge loss and I am disappointed the way the season ended for them,” Amerine said. “They played their hearts out yesterday. Next year there are going to be lots of new faces on the field. We do return a little bit of talent in Prewitt [Mike] Straub, [Lonnie] Millard and [Brian] Lubnow, but obviously there are going to be lots of holes to fill.”
Notes: Though the official announcement will not come until Thursday at the Bull Run District Championship game, sources stated that Mendenhall will repeat as the district’s player of the year. He would be the first back-to-back winner of the award since Manassas Park’s Zach Terrell won the award for three-straight years before graduating in 2005.