Sports

Mason Baseball Wins Bull Run District Title

A-Mason-Baseball---LubnowGeorge Mason’s baseball team capped its successful season-long march through the Bull Run District on last Friday, blanking arch-rival Strasburg 2-0 in a one-game playoff to claim the regular season Bull Run District championship.

A-Mason-Baseball---Lubnow

Pitcher Brian Lubnow turned in a stellar performance in the league title tilt against Strasburg, throwing a complete-game shutout on the mound and driving in both of Mason’s runs at the plate. (Photo: Judy Lubnow)

George Mason’s baseball team capped its successful season-long march through the Bull Run District on last Friday, blanking arch-rival Strasburg 2-0 in a one-game playoff to claim the regular season Bull Run District championship.

The victory gave the Mustangs a 10-1 district record and earned them a berth in the Region B tournament, which starts on Memorial Day.

Despite subsequently falling in the district playoffs, Mason will host a quarterfinal game on Monday, May 31, at 4 p.m.

Last week’s one-game playoff for the district championship came about because both Mason and Strasburg posted 9-1 regular season records, losing only at the other’s home field.

That forced a title-deciding game at a neutral site; the agreed-upon venue was Liberty High School in Bealeton, below Warrenton.

The teams each pitched their aces — senior Brian Lubnow for Mason, and junior Zach Cover for Strasburg. They had great games — both threw 10 strikeouts — but Lubnow was a shade stronger. He pitched a complete game, four-hit shutout, while Cover allowed five hits and gave way after six innings to Rams reliever Tyler Hott.

The game’s only runs came in the top of the second inning, when Mason junior Paul Weber got on with a single, then senior P.J. Anderson doubled to put runners on second and third. Lubnow stepped to the plate with two outs and hit a shot into left field that scored Weber and Anderson.

Those two runs stood up the rest of the game, though Strasburg continually threatened, getting at least one runner on base in five of the next six innings. But time and time again Lubnow threw a strikeout to end an inning, most dramatically in the bottom of the seventh, when the Rams had two men on and their cleanup hitter, senior Derek Buckley, at the plate.

Lubnow got two strikes on Buckley, but Buckley kept battling, hitting one deep foul ball to right, then another foul deep left. On the eighth pitch of their duel, Lubnow threw a high fastball, and Buckley swung and missed to end the game, sparking an on-field celebration by the Mustangs, and one in the stands by the two dozen Mason faithful who trekked to the game.

Two nights before, Mason had forced the one-game playoff for the title by winning a similarly tense contest on the road against Manassas Park. It took nine full innings, but Mason finally emerged victorious, 2-1.

Mason trailed Park 1-0 going into the sixth inning, when the Mustangs finally got back-to-back hits against the Cougars’ star pitcher, Nate Hoffa. Senior Tyler Roth hit a leadoff double, then scored on a single by sophomore Stephen Lubnow.

After throwing well over 100 pitches for Park, Hoffa was replaced by reliever Donovan Johnson in the eighth inning.

The score stayed knotted 1-1 until the top of the ninth, when Mason’s Weber engaged in a fierce standoff with Johnson, going to a full count and fouling off multiple pitches.

Weber’s stand allowed sophomore Jack Trainor, a pinch runner inserted after an Anderson single, to steal second.

When Weber smashed the decisive hit — a sizzling line drive down the right field line — Trainor scored, putting Mason up by a run.

The pressure intensified in the bottom of the ninth, as Park got runners on second and third with only one out, but Weber came to the rescue again, this time with his glove, chasing down a tough fly ball in right field for out No. 2.

But there was still more drama ahead, as a walk loaded the bases for Park and their next batter battled to a full count. But on the next pitch he swung and missed, delivering Mason the victory.

Mason used three senior pitchers — starter Quinn Casteel, Roth and Brian Lubnow.

Roth earned the win, pitching 5 and 1/3 innings and striking out 10. Lubnow came on in the ninth and pitched for the final two outs, getting the save.

The two victories lifted Mason’s overall season record to 15-6.

Before the regional tournament starts Monday, there is a district tournament. In the tourney, Mason hosted Madison County on last night, and lost a 2-1 defensive struggle.

Sophomore Collin Tucker threw a complete game for Madison, surrendering only five hits along the way.

Roth pitched five innings for Mason, getting eight strikeouts and giving up four hits. Sophomore Max Kaplow gave up two hits in relief.