An offense that had been a bit of an Achilles’ Heel for the Mustangs has finally woken up, and the George Mason High School varsity baseball team may yet earn a berth in the Region B Tournament because of it.
Senior Mike Straub dominated the Madison County Mountaineers Tuesday night, striking out 15 and allowing just one run on four hits to propel the Mustangs into Thursday evening’s Bull Run District title game against the winner of Strasburg and Manassas Park.
The 4-1 win over Madison County is the first by the Mustangs over the Mountaineers this season. Previously, Madison County, who finished second after the district’s regular season play, had defeated Mason in relatively easy fashion — 12-2 on April 15 and 6-0 on May 2.
Since then however, the Mustangs have come to life at the plate, outscoring their opponents 65-28 over the last five games. However, that figure is heavily skewed by a 30-run outburst against Manassas Park on May 7.
The more modest three-run margin of victory Tuesday night was provided by run-scoring hits from Andrew Lieber and Alex Prewitt in the first inning and a two-RBI single by Mike Ward in the top of the seventh. Lonnie Millard and Straub both finished the game with two hits apiece.
The near perfect performance on the mound by Straub was made possible by the easy manner in which the Mustangs dispatched Rappahannock County a day earlier in the Bull Run quarterfinals. A 14-2, slaughter-rule shortened game allowed Mason to keep its ace in reserve.
“I had confidence that we had enough arms to get by Rappahannock,” Mason Head Coach Adam Amerine said. “We always had Straub ready to come in if we needed to shut them down and get some key outs.”
Now, should Mason win the Bull Run finals on Thursday, or if Strasburg defeats Manassas Park in Wednesday night’s semifinal, the Mustangs will advance to the Region B Tournament beginning next week.
Should Manassas Park win Wednesday, the Mustangs would host the Cougars at 5 p.m. on Thursday. A win by Strasburg means Mason would hit the road to face the Rams in a 7 p.m. Thursday game.
On Monday, Rappahannock struck first, plating a run in the first inning, but Mason responded eight-fold.
The Panther pitchers struggled to find the strike zone all night long and the Mustangs jumped out to an eight-run first inning. Rappahannock only threatened once after that, putting runners on second and third with one out and trailing 10-2. However, Mason pitcher Brian Lubnow induced a pop-up to the pitcher for the second out, and then struck out the next batter to end the threat.
Rapphannock’s staff was not at all successful in retiring opposing batters. The Mustangs chased two Panther pitchers before the end of the first inning and Rappahannock issued a total of 15 walks on the day. Peter Campanelli and Prewitt provided the offense for Mason. Each had two hits and combined for five RBI.
“Jumping out on Rapp was big for us,” Amerine said. “We had to respond to their run in the top of the first and not let them get confident and comfortable in the contest.”