A few gaffes on the base paths and some missed offensive opportunities marked the difference when the George Mason High School varsity baseball team squared off for the first time this season with the defending state champion Strasburg Rams on Friday, April 18. The squandered chances proved costly, as the Mustangs dropped a 3-1 decision on the road, despite a strong performance by starting pitcher Mike Straub.
Straub went the distance, allowing only one earned run over his six innings for work.
Sophomore Brian Lubnow drove in sophomore Quinn Casteel to account for Mason's only run in the game, though they had several chances to add to their run total.
“We didn't do our job offensively. We had opportunities, but some poor baserunning decisions ran us out of some innings,” Mason Head Coach Adam Amerine said. “Neither team played a real crisp game but they did enough to win and we hurt ourselves with our mental decisions during the game.”
A day later, Mason righted itself and hammered out a victory against Briar Woods. Scoring four runs in the first inning, the Mustangs never looked back and sophomore Tyler Roth secured the win with three strong innings on the mound. Straub, Casteel and Evans Mandes each finished the game with two hits apiece.
“The key to the game was that our pitchers cut down their walks and we were finally able to string some hits together,” Amerine said. “We still made some baserunning blunders, but we were able to recover from those and score each inning for the most part.”
Despite the loss, the close game against Strasburg (10-1) is an encouraging sign for a young team battling in a talent-laden Bull Run District, particularly after a lopsided 10-run loss to Madison County.
“Some of our guys, like Alex Prewitt, Lonnie Millard, and Mike Straub have invested too much time and effort into our program and their own baseball development to let losses build frustration and impact our work on improving each day, so we will always come out fighting each night,” Amerine said. “Our scores are just an indication of a young team, our bad innings are really bad, if we could eliminate that one inning from each of our big losses, the record and definitely the scores would look better.”
Mason next takes the field against Clarke County on the road, Friday, April 25, followed by a non-district game against the Potomac School on Saturday. A road game against Manassas Park awaits them on Tuesday, April 29.
Note: Former Mason star pitcher Byron Mendenhall was named the Division III National Pitcher of the Week for March 31-April 6. Mendenhall, a 2007 graduate of Mason and currently a freshman on the team at Randolph-Macon, held the opposition scoreless in two starts over that span, striking out 14 in 12 innings of work. He was also named the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week.
On the season, Mendenhall holds a record of 6-0 with an earned run average of 1.88 and has 56 strikeouts in 57.1 innings.
Jimmy Piscopo, another Mason 2007 graduate, has three hits in 14 at-bats this season, with one of those hits a home run.