FAIRFAX, Va. – With the bases loaded a combined three times in the final two innings, the George Mason baseball team (23-15, 10-4) was able to capitalize on its second opportunity and defeat Saint Louis (23-16, 11-4) in a thirteen-inning thriller at Spuhler Field on Friday afternoon.
Tied at one run apiece after nine innings, both teams worked quick 10th and 11th innings before the Patriots loaded the bases for the first time in the bottom of the 12th. Blaise Fernandez led off the frame with a ground-rule double over the wall in right-center before Ray Toto made a sacrifice bunt attempt right back to pitcher Matt Eckelman to move Fernandez to third. Eckelman chose to make the play at third on the bunt, however Fernandez beat the throw which allowed Toto to reach first. Eckelman then intentionally walked Josh Leemhuis to load the bases.
With Tucker Tobin at the plate next, the Billikens were able to pick off Fernandez at third and strike out Tobin for two quick outs. Friday’s starting pitcher Anthony Montefusco flew out to center field to send the game into the 13th inning, tied for the longest game the Patriots have played this season.
Saint Louis led off the 13th inning with two consecutive singles and an intentionally-walked batter by Tyler Zombro to eventually load the bases with one out. Zombro was able to strikeout Josh Bunselmeyer in the next at bat and force Danny Mannion to fly out to right field to end the threat.
Again the Patriots loaded the bases with zero outs in the bottom of the inning. Chris Cook led off with a single before Mick Foley dropped a sacrifice bunt attempt. Eckelman fielded the ball cleanly however it slipped out of his hands on the throw to first, allowing Cook to advance to third and Foley to second. Luke Willis was intentionally walked to load the bases and Fernandez followed two batters later with a deep fly ball into right field, landing just shy of the warning track and enough to bring home Cook from third to end the three hour and ten minute inaugural meeting between the two teams.
Zombro earned his fourth win of the season after pitching five innings of scoreless relief, allowing only four hits and striking out one. Montefusco received a no-decision after throwing the first eight innings in which he allowed one run and struck out five with only his 10th walk of the season.
Eckelman takes the loss for the Billikens in relief of starter James Norwood, lasting the final 6 and one-thirds innings and giving up the winning run. Norwood pitched the first half of the ballgame, striking out five batters and allowing eight hits.
The Green and Gold scored the first run of the ballgame back in the fourth inning when Fernandez scored on a wild pitch after leading off the inning with a single. The senior went 4-6 in the ballgame, scoring the first run and driving in the winning run.
Cook, Toto and Willis each chipped in two hits while Foley, Montefusco and Brandon Gum added one apiece to give Mason a total of 13. Saint Louis ended the game with 12, scoring what was the tying run in the top of the seventh on three consecutive one-out singles.
Game two of the series is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 26. A Patriot Club picnic will take place before the game at 12:30 p.m. and alumni will be recognized during the game.