George Mason captures 2023 A10 tournament title. (Courtesy: Mason Athletics)
The George Mason University Baseball team captured its second-ever A10 tournament title this past Saturday at The Diamond in Richmond Va. Mason was led by outstanding pitching, great defense and some timely hitting. The Patriots (35-24,13-10 A10) went 5-1 at the 2023 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship. They won three elimination games to claim the title. The 6th seeded Patriots knocked off the 4th seeded Saint Louis Billikens in back-to-back do-or-die contests in the final.
In game two, Mason sent eight batters to the plate in the top of the sixth and scored a pair of runs to take a 3-2 lead. With one out, Jordan Smith reached on an error and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore catcher Connor Dykstra. Reece Woody, a sophomore first baseman produced an RBI single to tie the game at 2-2.
In what turned out to be the defining moment of the game, second baseman Brett Stallings got on base due to the Billikens, third error of the inning. Woody raced home to put the Patriots ahead for good at 3-2. The Patriots tacked on a run in the top of the eighth and added 2 insurance runs in the 9th for a 6-2 victory.
Two Mason freshman pitchers excelled in the title game. Starter Logan Rumberg threw four innings allowing only two runs while reliever Owen Stewart pitched five innings of two-hit shutout ball to earn the win. Sophomore starter Chad Gartland was the Most Outstanding Performer of the tournament. Senior South Trimble, junior Kyle Menaker and sophomore Reece Woody were also named to the All-Championship Team.
Gartland threw 9.2 innings over two appearances during the championship. He completed 8.0 innings vs No. 3 Dayton and pitched 1.2 innings in relief to earn the save in an elimination game vs. Dayton. Gartland finished with a 2.79 ERA and .257 opposing batting average with nine strikeouts and a save.
Under the leadership of first year manager Shawn Camp the Patriots won their first conference tournament title since 2014. Camp took over the program after longtime head skipper Bill Brown retired.
Camp had been on Brown’s staff for the previous three seasons. He is a former Patriot pitcher who played under Brown and was a MLB reliever who enjoyed a 11 year career in the majors. Throughout his career Camp was praised for his ability to adapt. He was a catcher in high school and converted to a pitcher in college.
Camp brought that same tenacity and fight to the college coaching ranks that he had while on the mound. When talking to the News-Press, he emphasized pitching, defense, and speed. He stated, “I’m old school,” a philosophy and a goal the team set out with from day one. He stressed that his staff works hard and gets the best out of the players, capitalizing on their players’ strengths and not asking them to do things they can’t. While the Patriots may not hit a lot of homers, they will steal bases, play great defense and pitch well.
Camp described his team as, “We are the West Coast offense to baseball, we don’t have the resources of big schools. We work with what we have and over-develop our players. We play fast and force teams to feel uncomfortable.” The Patriots are a team that utilizes everyone’s best abilities and look for traits that other teams may not value. One of those is moving runners on bunts, putting the ball in play and stealing bases. The Patriots have two players in the top 50 in the country in stolen bases.
Mason’s A10 title was a testament to their manager who brings old school mentality and approach to the game. In game two on Saturday those traits were on full display as the Patriots were paced by young arms and small-ball.
With their A10 title, the Patriots earned the league’s automatic bid in this year’s NCAA Tournament. For the eighth time in school history, the George Mason Patriots will send a baseball team to the NCAA Division I Regionals. That regional is set to begin Friday, June 2. Mason will travel to Wake Forest to take on the No. 1 national seeded Demon Deacons in the Winston-Salem Regional at 7 p.m. The tournament will be played in a double-elimination format. The games will be aired on ESPN+.