George Mason’s varsity baseball team scored only 11 runs over the course of four games last week, but that was just enough as the Mustangs prevailed in tense contests against Strasburg, George Marshall, Broad Run and Manassas Park.
The Mustangs are now 5-0 in the A Bull Run District, and are 9-5 overall.
The team has won seven straight, the longest winning streak for GM baseball since the 2006 team reeled off nine straight and took the Bull Run district title.
Strasburg, a strong contender for the Bull Run title this year, came to Falls Church April 20 boasting a 9-1 record.
But the Rams could not defeat Mustang senior pitcher Brian Lubnow, who went the distance for Mason, striking out nine, and the Mustangs won, 3-0.
The Mustangs got on the board in the second inning when a Rams error and a walk put P.J. Anderson and Evans Mandes on base, and Michael Wolfe doubled them in.
Mason’s other run came in the fourth inning, when Tyler Duncan singled and subsequently scored on a double by Tyler Roth.
Strasburg threatened in the later innings — they loaded the bases in the sixth and got two on in the seventh — but in both cases Lubnow and the Mason defense met the challenge and preserved the shutout.
Next up for Mason was its shortest road trip of the year, a five minute ride up Route 7 for an April 22 battle with the George Marshall Statesmen, who play in the AAA Liberty District.
Manning the mound for Mason was Roth, who threw a complete game, allowed six hits and struck out four.
The first Mustang run came in the third inning, when Wolfe drew a leadoff walk and later came in on a sacrifice fly by Jack Trainor.
The Statesmen answered in the bottom of the third, when Connor Barrand drew a walk and later crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Frankie Hall.
The next three innings were a defensive duel, with Roth and Marshall starter Kyle Barrand pitching well and getting help when needed from the gloves behind them. Marshall turned a double play in the fourth to snuff a Mason threat, and in the fifth Mason executed a rundown between third base and home to keep Marshall off the board.
The 1-1 tie finally broke in the top of the seventh, when Wolfe again drew a walk, then came in on a two-out single by Stephen Lubnow.
Mason got a final scare in the bottom of the seventh, when Marshall’s Mitch MacKeith hit a two-out single and advanced to second. But an infield popup ended the game with Mason up 2-1.
The Mason-Marshall contest reunited a number of young men who, as children, played for the Falls Church Kiwanis Little League. On the combined rosters of Mason and Marshall are at least 15 boys who played ball with FCKLL, including eight who were on one or both of the FCKLL All Star teams that won back-to-back Little League District 4 titles in 2005-06 — MacKeith, Hall, Duncan, Michael Evans, Danny Mendez, Jon Freeman and Paul Weber. The Marshall JV baseball coach, Mike Goldsmith, managed the champion 2006 FCKLL All Star team.
As close as the Strasburg and Marshall contests were, the Mustangs’ next game, on April 24 against the Broad Run Spartans, looked to be even tougher. When the teams met earlier this season, Mason was shutout 5-0 by the Spartans, who are an upper-tier team in the AA Dulles District and came into the rematch with a 9-2 record.
Mason spotted Broad Run a two-run lead, but tied it in the third when the Lubnow brothers both got on base — Brian by way of a single and Stephen on a fielder’s choice — and came around to score. The Spartans’ catcher booted a tag at home to let in Brian, and Stephen came in when Mandes hit a fielder’s choice groundout to the right side.
Stellar defense by both teams kept it at 2-2 through the regulation seven innings.
Broad Run starting pitcher Conor Jessop threw five innings of four-hit ball and then was relieved by Brandon Craft. Mason starter Max Kaplow finished six innings, scattering eight hits and striking out five, then Quinn Casteel came on in relief.
In the top of the eighth, the Spartans got a runner to third with only one out, but Casteel shut the door with two strikeouts.
When Mason came to bat, Casteel led off with a walk, moved over on a single by Anderson, and then with two out scored the winning run when the Spartans’ shortstop bobbled a grounder by Brian Lubnow.
Mason’s next foe, the Manassas Park Cougars, brought a six-game winning streak of their own into Falls Church on April 27. After two scoreless innings, it was looking grim for Mason in the third, as Park loaded the bases. But Mustangs pitcher Brian Lubnow struck out Park’s next three batters.
In the bottom of the third, the Lubnow brothers combined to put Mason on the board: Brian walked, advanced to second on a Park error, then scored when Stephen singled.
The Mustangs went up 2-0 in the fourth when leadoff batter Tyler Duncan sent the first pitch he saw sailing over the left field fence.
In the fourth, Park got two men on and finally scored a run, but Mason’s infield defense nipped the rally, and in Park’s final at-bat they went down one-two-three.
Brian Lubnow had eight strikeouts and allowed four hits. He has been on the mound for all five of Mason’s Bull Run District victories.
The team’s game on May 1 against Colonial Beach has been canceled. The Mustangs host Clarke County High on May 4.