Mason baseball back on track in 11-2 blowout win over CAA rival James Madison
Just last week, the George Mason Patriots’ spirits were probably at the lowest they had been all season. The team was in the midst of a five-game losing streak, including three conference games in that span — two against Georgia State and one against Northeastern University, bookending back-to-back losses to Richmond University.
This week, everything has taken a complete 180 degree turn. After an 11-2 blowout victory against Colonial Athletic Association rivals James Madison University on Friday, Mason has won four straight games, improving their record to one game over .500.
Those are the kind of results coach Bill Brown wants to see from his team.
“As long as you keep working at it and you play hard, it’ll flip for you,” Brown said. “And quite honestly, we pitched. Today we got some more offense, which is great, but we still only gave up two so it’s always about pitching and it’s always about defense.”
JMU (11-9, 4-2) starting pitcher sophomore Patrick Toohers retired seven straight batters to begin the game. But following back-to-back walks to freshman Brandon Gum and redshirt sophomore Andrew Sable, Mason (11-10, 4-3) rallied for five runs in the third inning.
Sophomore Tommy Vitaletti and senior Duncan Satherlie collected back-to-back RBI-singles. After junior Tucker Tobin was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Blaise Fernandez drove in two runs with a sharply hit ball to the Dukes shortstop. Redshirt junior Anthony Montefusco would collect the final RBI of the inning on a 6-4 fielder’s choice.
Mason starting pitcher junior Jared Gaynor threw a three-up-three-down fourth inning as part of his complete game victory. In the bottom of the inning, the Patriots blew the game wide open.
Dukes freshman Mark Gunst relieved Toohers after a leadoff double by junior Mick Foley and a single by Gum. Gunst walked Sable on four straight pitches to bring up Vitaletti with the bases loaded. On his fifth pitch of the afternoon, Vitaletti homered over the fence in left field off Gunst. The grand slam cleared the bases and increased the Patriot lead to 9-1.
“I had the green light there,” said Vitaletti, who went 3-5 at the plate with three runs scored and five RBIs. “[After Gunst struggled against the first batter], my thought process was he’s going to definitely try and work ahead especially with guys in scoring position and coach said ‘Don’t miss it’.”
Gaynor allowed seven hits against the Dukes, who entered the game with a team batting average of .336 — the second highest in the CAA.
“I felt good, all my stuff was working which is always a plus,” said Gaynor, who improved his season record to 2-2. “I felt the main thing was I was commanding my fastball which I haven’t been doing the past couple weeks.”
Entering Friday’s matinee, Madison’s three biggest threats were redshirt junior Matt Tenaglia, sophomore Chad Carroll and senior Casey Gross. Each ranked in the top 15 in CAA batting average, boasting .431, .429 and .397 batting averages respectively — Gaynor held them to a combined 1-11.
The series continues on Saturday with a 2 p.m. first pitch. Montefusco (2-2, 4.88 ERA) is scheduled to start for Mason against opposing redshirt sophomore Luke Drayer (2-1, 1.76 ERA).
“I think you’ll expect to see a really good James Madison team tomorrow,” Brown said. “I think they’ll recover nicely and we better be ready for it because I will assure you that they will come at us and they will play hard and aggressive.”