ST. LOUIS, MO – Redshirt senior Anthony Montefusco pitched a complete-game, four-hit shutout and scored two of the team’s three runs in a 3-0 victory over VCU in the Atlantic 10 baseball Championship semifinals on Friday afternoon.
Montefusco pitched the full nine innings for the first time this season, setting the Rams down in order in five of the nine frames. He allowed only one extra base hit as he struck out three batters and walked one in his ninth victory of the season and the 10th shutout for the Patriots.
With the strikeout of pinch hitter Darian Carpenter to end the eighth inning, the Medford, N.J. native also set a new Mason career program record with his 247th strikeout wearing the Green and Gold. He passes Stacen Grant, who fanned 246 from 2002-05 and ended the day with 248 career strikeouts after getting Chris Ayers to swing and miss to complete the shutout.
Both starting pitchers kept runs off the board until the Patriots struck in the top of the fifth. Montefusco hit a groundball to the shortstop, whose high throw over to first allowed him to reach safely. The only error of the game would prove costly for the Rams.
Mick Foley was able to drop his 10th sacrifice hit of the season to advance Montefusco to second and after a two out walk by Luke Willis, he was able to reach home on Brandon Gum’s RBI single into left field for the 1-0 lead. Matt Blanchard gave up the single for the Rams and earned his first loss of the season as a result, allowing one unearned run while striking out nine Patriots and walking five in six and two-thirds innings pitched.
It remained a one-run ballgame through the next three innings before Mason added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Montefusco and Ray Toto drew back-to-back walks with one out and Foley singled into shallow left field to load the bases. Willis drew his fourth walk of the afternoon in the next at-bat to bring home Montefusco for the 2-0 lead. Willis ended his day 1-1 with four walks and is now 6-10 in the postseason.
After the final VCU pitching change, Gum collected his second RBI of the day when he chopped a ball to second base and reached on a fielder’s choice, allowing Toto to score from third for the final run of the game. Mason scored its three runs on three hits with the help of one error while VCU was held to four hits and was shutout for only the second time this season.
Mason (33-20) earns a spot the Atlantic 10 Championship game on Saturday, May 24 at 1:00 p.m. EDT with the victory. Top-seeded Saint Louis and second-seeded Saint Joseph’s play in an elimination game on Friday afternoon, where the winner will play VCU later in the evening for a chance at the Patriots on Saturday. Click here for an updated tournament bracket.