Two straight shut-out losses to Bull Run District opponents has George Mason High School Baseball Head Coach Adam Amerine stewing about his team's lack of offense and the Mustangs sagging in the standings after a 3-2 start in district play.
Last Friday, the first-place Madison County Mountaineers defeated the Mustangs 6-0 at George Mason and Tuesday the Strasburg Rams again shut out the Mustangs on their home turf, this time by a 5-0 margin.
“Abysmal,” Amerine said, clearly frustrated, when asked to appraise his offense following Tuesday's loss. “The kids have no idea what approach to take at the plate.”
While he didn't cross into Ozzie Guillen tirade territory during or after the game, Amerine was clearly displeased with his team's efforts after the third inning and spent the entire inning break in the mid-fourth inning huddled with his team. The result: A one, two, three inning for the Mustangs.
One inning later, Amerine again preached patience at the plate and again his hitters were retired in order, all of them swinging early in the count and at tough pitches out of the strike zone.
“You tell these kids something in the on deck circle, then they walk 10 feet to the batter's box and forget it,” Amerine lamented.
If Mason is to mount any kind of serious post-season run, the Mustangs will have to figure out exactly what happens in that 10 feet. At the very least, Mason batters will need to show more patience at the plate and work the count better than they did on Tuesday. Facing Strasburg's pitchers, the majority of Mason's batters showed about as much restraint as Cookie Monster confronted by a plate of Oreos.
Amid the flailing, the Mustangs managed to mount a few potential rallies, as twice seniors Lonnie Millard and Alex Prewitt reached base with consecutive hits. Leading off the bottom of the sixth, Millard blasted a double to deep right that just glanced off the outstretched glove of the Strasburg left fielder. Prewitt then beat out an infield single to third base. Junior first baseman Andrew Lieber followed those hits with an unlucky smash (on a 3-1 pitch) that was wailed directly at the Rams' center fielder.
The rally was fully squelched two batters later, as both Mustangs struck out swinging at pitches over their eyes.
The second consecutive offensive outage for Mason wasted a decent day on the mound from Prewitt and starter Tyler Roth. After allowing three runs in the first inning and another in the second, Roth settled down. He recorded a scoreless third and retired the side in order in the fourth before venturing into trouble in the fifth. Three walks bracketed a pop-out to short, loading the bases and bringing Prewitt on in relief. The senior induced a ground ball to third, fielded by senior Mike Straub for the force out at home, and then another grounder to shortstop to veer away from trouble.
Strasburg finally broke through for its final run in the seventh to account for the 5-0 final score and leave Amerine to contemplate how to jump start his lineup.
“Our offense is clearly the problem,” Amerine said. “I have tried one million things, but the kids are the ones that have to learn and make the adjustments.”
Note: Mike Straub, the Mustangs top starting pitcher entering the season, has not pitched since the April 25 game against Clarke County. He departed midway through that contest due to back spasms. Amerine listed his ace as “day-to-day,” noting that Straub may attempt to pitch in Wednesday's game against Manassas Park, though the senior was clutching and rubbing his back for the duration of Tuesday's contest.