ST. LOUIS, MO – The George Mason baseball team (34-20) captured the 2014 Atlantic 10 baseball Championship with a 3-2, 10-inning victory over fourth-seeded VCU at the Billikens Sports Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Patriots win the Atlantic 10 Championship in their inaugural season as members of the conference and first conference title since 1992 when the team won the CAA tournament. Mason earns its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009 when they received an at-large bid.
Jake Kalish was the fourth pitcher to start a game for Mason in the A-10 Tournament, taking the mound in Saturday’s championship game against VCU. Kalish threw his longest outing of the season, lasting nine of the 10 innings played as he allowed two runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts in his second win of the season.
Atlantic 10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player Luke Willis got on base with the first pitch of the game, reaching on a bunt single. Willis went 4-5 in the game and ended his tournament with an average of .666 (10-15), scoring two runs and drawing four walks while adding three RBI and two stolen bases in four games.
The scoreboard stayed clean until the third inning, where both teams plated two runs. Willis led off the inning with a single, stole second base and was able to reach third after a throw from catcher Chris Ayers went into center field. Willis came home on a groundout from Brandon Gum in the next at-bat for the 1-0 lead.
Blaise Fernandez reached on an error by the third baseman following Gum’s groundout and was moved to third after a double by Tucker Tobin. Chris Cook flew out to left-center which was enough for Fernandez to tag and reach home, making the score 2-0.
VCU answered in the bottom of the frame with two runs on two hits and a Mason error. Rams were on first and third base with one out when a hard-hit ball went through the legs of Fernandez and cut VCU’s deficit to one run. Vimael Machin reached base on a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat, allowing the run on third to come home and even the score.
Mason had multiple chances to score in the ballgame, one of those chances ended by Rams left fielder James Bunn. With Willis on second in the top of the fifth Fernandez roped a ball into left field, however Bunn was able to make the diving grab and keep Willis from scoring in the frame.
The Patriots finally drove home the winning run of the game in the top of the tenth inning with relief pitcher Seth Greene on the mound. Heath Dwyer made his second start for VCU in the tournament, throwing six and one-third innings and allowing two runs on eight hits.
Fernandez and Tobin led off the top of the 10th with singles through the left and right sides, respectively, and were advanced to second and third after Cook’s sacrifice bunt. Greene intentionally walked Josh Leemhius to load the bases for Anthony Montefusco, who hit a hard liner into left field where Bunn was able to make another diving catch for the second out. The ball however had enough distance to allow Fernandez to tag from third for the 3-2 lead.
Tyler Zombro made his second appearance of the A-10 tournament in the bottom of the 10th, tossing a perfect inning for his fifth save of the season to give the Patriots the tournament title.
Zombro was one of four Patriots to be named to the All-Tournament team, along with Willis, Montefusco and Jared Gaynor. Willis was also named Tournament MOP.
Mason will find out when and where it will be playing its NCAA Regional games on Monday, May 26 at noon when the NCAA college baseball selection show is broadcast on ESPNU.
Luke Willis, George Mason (MOP)
Jared Gaynor, George Mason
Tyler Zombro, George Mason
Anthony Montefusco, George Mason
Tim Swatek, Fordham
Michael Bozarth, Saint Louis
Damien Rivera, Saint Louis
Brian O’Keefe, Saint Joseph’s
Collin Forgey, Saint Joseph’s
Bill Cullen, VCU
Matt Davis, VCU
Daniel Concepcion, VCU