George Mason High School’s varsity baseball team earned a split in its final two regular season home games, defeating Rappahannock County 13-5 on last Wednesday and two days later falling 8-2 to Strasburg, the leading team in the Bull Run District.
The Mustangs carried a 12-7 record (5-4 in the Bull Run) into their last regular-season contest, on the road at Rappahannock tonight.
Mason’s eight-run home win over Rappahannock last week was harder than the final score looks. When the Mustangs came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning, they trailed 4-1 to the Panthers, who had not won a game all season. Mason closed the gap to 4-2 when junior Jon Freeman drew a leadoff walk, stole second, and came in to score on two Rappahannock throwing errors.
But Mason’s big break came after the Panthers registered two outs. Rapp pitcher Cody Casey got shaky, giving up a single to Mustang sophomore Ryan Short and walks to senior Paul Weber and junior Jack Trainor. After a Casey balk brought in Mason’s third run, Rappahannock called on Garfield Burke to pitch, but he immediately met his match in Mason junior Stephen Lubnow, who crushed a triple to the fence in center-right, bringing in Weber and Trainor and giving the Mustangs a 5-4 lead.
Then it was really off to the races, as junior Max Kaplow’s single brought in Lubnow, and senior Tyler Duncan’s double scored Kaplow, and Short’s second single of the inning brought in Duncan. The Panthers called in yet another pitcher, Even Hitt, who finally got his team off the field, but they trailed 8-4.
Mason had another two-out surge in the fifth inning: Trainor and Lubnow each bunted on, then a Kaplow double scored them both. And there was yet another two-out Mustang rally in the sixth inning: Weber hit his second double of the game, scoring junior Bryce Cooper (pinch running for Short, who had walked), then after Trainor bunted on again, he and Weber came in on a Kaplow single, boosting Mason’s lead to 13-4.
Rappahannock strung together four hits and scored a run in its final turn at bat, but Mustang pitcher Short, who had relieved junior starter Trevor Simpson in the fourth inning, got a strikeout to end the game and claim winning-pitcher honors.
Two days later, the weather for the Strasburg game was cloudy and damp, and the Rams threw a wet blanket on the crowd of Mason faithful by going up 5-0 before the Mustangs finally got on the board with two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Trainor singled and scored on a triple by Lubnow, who scored on a sacrifice by Kaplow.
There were a few other chances for the Mustang fans to cheer: Mason had eight hits in the game – as many as Strasburg – including two singles by Mustang senior Chris Horneman, who had his best game of the season at bat. But Strasburg’s defense was more taut in pressure situations, and the Rams got more mileage from their hits, adding two runs in the sixth inning and another in the seventh for their final 8-2 advantage.
After closing out the regular season last night, the Bull Run District tournament is up next for the Mustangs.