WILMINGTON, N.C. - After staking itself to a five-run
advantage, the George Mason baseball team drove in three runs in the top of the
ninth inning, answering a furious UNCW comeback and rallying for a 10-9 win on
Saturday afternoon at Brooks Field. The victory locks the Patriots (33-22,
16-14 CAA) into the four seed in next week's CAA Championship, where they will
face No. 5 VCU at 12 p.m. in Harrisonburg.
Mason racked up seven runs on 14 hits over the first six
innings to take an early lead, but the Seahawks exploded for six runs in the
bottom of the sixth inning to grab the lead before the ninth inning Mason dramatics
helped the Green and Gold snap a five-game winless streak. The Seahawks,
regular season conference champions, dropped to 35-20 overall and 24-6 in CAA
play as they suffered just their third home conference loss in 2012.
The Patriots outhit the Seahawks, 17-12, for the game, and
recorded double-digit hits in all three games of the weekend series in
Trailing 9-7 entering the ninth, Mason drove in three runs
to grab the 10-9 lead. Junior outfielder Duncan Satherlie and sophomore Jordan
Hill led off with consecutive walks, and senior first baseman Zack Helgeson
singled to left to load the bases. After two Mason outs, senior catcher Jake
Leonardo hit an infield single that was mishandled by UNCW shortstop Jake
Koenig, allowing both Satherlie and Hill to score to tie the game at 9-9. After
junior Chris Cook fouled out, freshman outfielder Tommy Vitaletti doubled down
the left field line, scoring pinch runner Andrew Sable and giving Mason the
lead for good.
Mason grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the top of the third.
Senior catcher Jake Leonardo and junior second baseman Chris Cook led off with
singles to right to leave runners at the corners for senior shortstop Brig
Tison, who recorded an RBI single to right to put the Patriots ahead.
The Patriot bats stayed hot going into the fourth inning, as
the team recorded seven hits and drove in four runs while batting around to
assume a 5-0 advantage. Sophomore third baseman Blaise Fernandez led off the
hit parade with a single to right field and after a Mason out, sophomore
outfielder Josh Leemhuis doubled to left center to put two runners in scoring
position for Leonardo, who drilled a two-RBI double down the left field line
for a 3-0 lead. Cook then singled to center and advanced to second on the throw
leaving Patriots on second and third, and Leonardo came home on the next play
as freshman outfielder Tommy Vitaletti hit an RBI groundout to extend the lead
After the Vitaletti groundout, UNCW starter Jordan Ramsey
was relieved by righty Jack Lane who gave up an RBI single to his first batter
faced, Tison, allowing the final Mason run to cross the plate for the 5-0 lead.
The Seahawks responded in their half of the fourth inning,
as shortstop Jake Koenig hit a two out RBI single to left to leave the scoreboard
Mason worked out of a jam in the bottom of the fifth, as
reliever Kevin Lingerman walked three of his four batters faced in the inning
to load the bases before he was replaced by Branden Bartlett, who got his first
batter faced to fly out, allowing a Seahawk to score to pull UNCW to within
three runs, 5-2.
Fernandez extended the Patriot lead to 7-2 in the top of the
sixth with a two-run blast to right field, but the lead was short lived as the
Seahawks drove in six runs on six hits, including two home runs, in the home
half of the inning to grab an 8-7 lead.
UNCW added an insurance run in the seventh to extend its
lead to 9-7, but it was not enough as the Patriots mounted the aforementioned rally
in the ninth.
All nine Mason starters registered a hit, led by a 4-for-5,
two RBI performance from Leonardo. Fernandez finished 2-for-4 with two RBI's,
while Tison was 2-for-5 with two RBI's.
In a scheduled limited start, A.J. Johnson went four
innings, striking out three and giving up just one earned run on three hits. Mason
utilized four additional pitchers in the game, with junior reliever Chris O'Grady
picking up the win and improving to 2-0 after he threw 2.2 innings, striking
out three and giving up just one hit.
All nine starting batters for UNCW registered at least one
hit, as Campbell went 1-for-2 with three RBI's and outfielder Andrew Cain was
1-for-4 with two RBI's.