HARRISONBURG, Va., April 27, 2012 - George Mason scored unearned runs in the fifth and eighth and overcame being limited to two hits in the game to defeat James Madison 3-2 in the opener of a Colonial Athletic Association baseball series on Friday night at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.
GMU improved to 29-16 overall and 14-8 in the CAA as the Patriots look for their sixth straight conference series win. JMU dropped to 14-28-1 overall and 8-14 in the conference with the Dukes needing a pair of wins to record their fourth straight series win.
JMU freshman starter Patrick Toohers (Florham Park, N.J./Seton Hall Prep), the reigning CAA Pitcher of the Week, allowed just one hit in eight innings of work but became the tough-luck loser thanks to JMU miscues.
Toohers held the Patriots without a hit until catcher Jake Leonardo struck for a double with two outs in the fifth for the only hit against the tall right-hander. That was followed by an error at shortstop to tie the score at 1-1. Mason then took advantage of an errant throw in the eighth combined with a fielding error at second base that brought in the go-ahead run.
Third baseman Blaise Fernandez's solo shot to right in the ninth proved to be an important insurance run. Against the CAA's top closer in Chris O'Grady (0.33 ERA, one run allowed in 27 2/3 innings), the Dukes put two on with one out thanks to a walk and a single. After a strikeout, sophomore pinch hitter Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) singled through the right side to cut the margin to one at 3-2. However, O'Grady recovered to strike out senior outfielder Ian Haynes (Danville, Va./Tunstall) to finish his 12th save.
Toohers struck out four batters and matched the career high he set last week with eight innings pitched. The two total hits allowed by the Dukes were the fewest since a 5-0 win in seven innings against Lafayette in 2009. It was the fewest in a nine-inning game since a 4-2 win at Drexel in 2003.
Jake Kalish earned the win for the Patriots with two innings of perfect relief in the seventh and eighth. Starter Anthony Montefusco allowed one run on three hits in six innings while working around four walks.
Junior center fielder Cole McInturff (Centreville, Va./Westfield) posted his fourth multiple-hit game in the last six for the Dukes. All five of JMU's hits in the game were singles while both Mason hits went for extra bases. Leonardo scored each of the unearned runs for the Patriots.
JMU struck first in the game with a run in the bottom of the second. McInturff and freshman first baseman Aaron Hoover (Centreville, Va./Westfield) reached on consecutive one-out singles to put runners on the corners. Haynes then legged out a potential double-play grounder for a fielder's choice RBI.
Toohers held the Patriots in check until two outs in the top of the fifth when Leonardo recorded the first GMU hit with a double to left center. Second baseman Chris Cook then grounded up the middle but freshman shortstop Chad Carroll's (Oakton, Va./Oakton) throw to first sailed high for an error to bring in the unearned tying run.
Mason added another unearned run in the eighth to take the lead. Leonardo led off the inning when the throw from Carroll bounced short and trickled away. The catcher advanced to third on a sac bunt and a grounder. Shortstop Brig Tison then bounced a grounder up the middle off Toohers' glove, but second baseman Casey Goss (Springfield, Mo./Glendale) couldn't cleanly get the ball out of his glove as the error allowed the unearned run to score for a 2-1 lead.
The Patriots tacked on a run in the ninth as Fernandez lofted a solo home run over the high wall in right field for his first of the year and just the second Mason hit of the game.
Game two of the series will be Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.