George Mason posted two unearned runs in the eighth inning on an infield single and a wild pitch to rally past James Madison 6-5 to clinch the Colonial Athletic Association baseball series Sunday afternoon at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
GMU improved to 30-17 overall and 15-9 in the CAA while winning its sixth straight league series. JMU fell to 15-29-1 overall and 9-15 in the league while dropping its first series in the last four. The Dukes had won seven of nine conference games entering the weekend.
The Patriots trailed 5-4 going into the eighth but benefitted from free bases, loading the bags on an error and a pair of walks. An infield single by center fielder Nick Allen, his third hit of the game, brought in the unearned and tying run to make it 5-5. A wild pitch advanced the runners and brought in what proved to be the game-winning run at 6-5.
JMU could not mount a rally in its last two turns at bat against the league's leading closer as Chris O'Grady posted his 13th save of the season to lower his ERA to 0.59. Jake Kalish pitched two innings of one-hit relief to earn the win and improve to 5-1.
Freshman Ben Garner (Burke, Va./St. Paul VI) took the loss with three runs against him in 2 1/3 innings, though the decisive runs against him were both unearned. Freshman Chris Huffman (Fort Defiance, Va./Fort Defiance) made his first collegiate start after 20 appearances in relief and allowed three runs on six hits in a career long of five innings thrown.
Allen had his second three-hit game in as many days to pace the Mason offense. He also drove in two runs and scored once. Left fielder Josh Leemhuis was 2-for-3 with a double, two walks and three runs scored. Shortstop Brig Tison and third baseman Blaise Fernandez also had two hits apiece while catcher Jake Leonardo smacked a two-run home run.
Junior Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) posted his first three-hit game of the season for the Dukes. Junior catcher Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) was 2-for-2 with two walks, a run and an RBI. Freshman shortstop Chad Carroll (Oakton, Va./Oakton) was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI.
JMU's first hit of the game drove in a run as junior left fielder Colby Roberts (Benton, Ark./Benton) walked to lead off the second. He advanced to second on a groundout and scored on Shaban's liner to center field. Junior second baseman Casey Goss (Springfield, Va./Glendale) hit a hard grounder up the middle that Mason second baseman Chris Cook was able to lunge for and begin a 4-6-3 double play.
Mason answered the next inning as Allen led off with a triple to the gap in left center. Tison then flew out to center field to bring in the run on a sacrifice fly and tie it 1-1.
The Patriots took the lead the following inning as Leemhius led off with a double to left and Leonardo smacked a two-run homer to left, his first round tripper of the season.
In the bottom of the fourth, senior first baseman Evan Scott (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) and Shaban each reached on walks with one out. After a strikeout, Goss lined a double off the wall in right field to score both to tie the score at 3-3. Senior right fielder Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) then reached on an infield single but Goss was thrown out at the plate as the shortstop made a dive to stop the ball from going up the middle.
The Patriots reclaimed the lead in the sixth as Leemhuis led off with a single. After a strikeout, he moved to second on a groundout and scored on a single to left by Allen to make it 4-3.
Scott led off the JMU sixth with a double deep to left field. A single by Shaban put runners on the corners and Carroll lofted a single just past the second baseman to drive in the tying run at 4-4, still with no outs. A groundout advanced both runners, then Haynes grounded to third with the runners moving and Shaban thrown out at the plate. However, with runners on the corners, Bladel hit a sharp single to left center for the go-ahead run to make it 5-4 before Mason's decisive rally in the eighth.
JMU will break for semester examinations and resume action on Tuesday, May 8 at Radford.