TOWSON, Md. – Freshman first baseman Brendan Butler had two hits, including the first home run of his college career, to lead the Tigers (9-9, 4-2) to an 8-4 Colonial Athletic Association victory over George Mason University (11-9, 2-4) and a series sweep over the Patriots on Sunday afternoon at John B. Schuerholz Park.
The Tigers, who earned their first-ever three-game sweep over George Mason, outscored the Patriots by a 25-8 in the series. In the opener on Friday, the Tigers won by a 6-1 margin. On Saturday, the Tigers pulled out an 11-3 victory. In the three-game sweep, Tiger pitchers compiled a 2.67 E.R.A. with only five walks and 24 strikeouts in 27 innings.
By sweeping the three-game series, the Tigers moved into a tie for second place in the CAA standings.
In the series finale, the Patriots grabbed an early lead. In the top of the second inning, junior second baseman Duncan Satherlie became their first base runner when sophomore righthander Brandon Gonnella (below) hit him with a pitch. When sopho more leftfielder Josh Leemhuis hit a shot back to the mound, Satherlie advanced to second while Gonnella threw out Leemhuis at first base. Moments later, sophomore first baseman Anthony Montefusco drilled a single to centerfield, scoring Satherlie to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead.
The Patriots added to their 1-0 advantage in the fourth inning when senior rightfielder Dan Schafferman lined a solo home run down the left field line, his fourth homer of the season.
Through three innings, senior righthander A.J. Johnson had shut out the Tigers on two hits. But, the Tigers came to life in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, sophomore Dominic Fratantuono singled up the middle. When Butler followed with a single to left, the Tigers had two runners on base. Sophomore leftfielder Kurt Wertz, who batted .545 in the three-game sweep, followed with a ground ball to second base where Satherlie made an error to load the bases with one out. Freshman rightfielder Peter Bowles hit a sacrifice fly to left, cutting the deficit to 2-1. After Johnson balked, the Tigers had two runners in scoring position. When junior catcher Andrew Parker walked on a 3-2 pitch, the bases were loaded again. While pitching to junior third baseman Zach Fisher, Johnson threw a wild pitch as Butler scored to tie the game. Then, Fisher put the Tigers ahead when he lined a two-run single to centerfield. Johnson finally pitched out of the inning by retiring sophomore shortstop Hunter Bennett on a ground ball to third base.
The Tigers added to their lead in the fifth inning against relief pitcher Jake Kalish. With two outs, Fratantuono singled to right center. That set the stage for Butler, who blasted a two-run homer over the left field fence, giving the Tigers a 6-2 lead.
In the sixth inning, Gonnella ran into trouble. Leading off the inning, senior third baseman Brig Tison was hit by a pitch. When Schafferman singled down the rightfield line, Gonnella was relieved by freshman righthander Paul Beers. After loading the bases with a leadoff walk to senior designated hitter Zach Helgeson, Beers got Satherline to line out to centerfield for a sacrifice fly as Tison scored to make it a 6-3 lead. But, Beers escaped the inning with no further damage as Leemhuis hit a ground ball back to the mound which Beers turned into an inning-ending double play.
The Patriots made another bid to tie the game in the seventh inning. Montefusco led off with a single to right, his third hit of the game. George Mason had runners at the corners when freshman catcher Ray Toto singled to right. But, Beers regrouped. He got sophomore shortstop Jordan Elliott to hit a ground ball to Bennett at shortstop who turned it into a double play while Montefusco scored to cut the deficit to 6-4. Junior centerfielder Nick Allen kept the inning alive with a single to centerfield but Beers retired Tison on a fly ball to the end the threat.
The Tigers extended their lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Senior centerfielder Ben Winter led off by reaching base when he was hit by a pitch. After Winter stole second base, he advanced to third when sophomore second baseman Mike Draper was retired on a fly ball to left. A walk to Fratantuono put runners at first and third as junior lefthander Chris O’Grady came in from the bullpen to pitch. A safety squeeze bunt by Butler enabled Winter to score, upping the Tigers’ lead to 7-4. When Wertz doubled down the left field line, Fratantuono scored to give the Tigers an 8-4 advantage. O’Grady finally retired the side when he struck out Bowles.
Senior righthander Tyler Austin came out of the bullpen to close out the win and the series sweep for the Tigers. He retired all six hitters he faced.
The Tigers outhit the Patriots in the series finale, 9-7. Fratantuono, Butler, Wertz and Fisher accounted for eight of those hits as each of them had a pair of hits. Fratantuono, who batted .444 in the series with four walks, went two-for-three and scored three runs. Butler, who hit .667 in two games of the series, was two-for-three with two runs scored and three RBI’s. Wertz was two-for-four with one run scored and one RBI.
In the weekend series, Wertz batted .545 with three doubles, two triples and five RBI’s. He also walked twice and scored four runs. Butler went four-for-six in the final two games of the series. He had a .750 on base percentage and scored five runs. The John Carroll High School graduate also had a triple and a home run.
Gonnella earned the win over the Patriots, his first victory of the season. He allowed three runs on four hits in five innings of work. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out four. Beers gave up one run on three hits in two innings before Austin closed out the victory with two perfect innings of relief.
Montefusco, who was the losing pitcher in the series opener on Friday, led the Patriots by going three-for-four. Schafferman also had two hits. Tison, who entered the weekend series with a .431 batting average, was hitless in the series finale to snap an 11-game hitting streak.
By sweeping the Patriots, the Tigers have won three straight three-game series against George Mason.
The Tigers, who have won three games in a row, return to action on Wednesday afternoon with a single game at Delaware State. The trip to Delaware State is the start of a ten-game road trip.