TOWSON, Md. – Senior leftfielder Kurt Wertz exploded for three hits and drove in seven runs to lead the Tigers (18-17) to a 13-9 come-from-behind victory over George Mason University (22-14) in a non-conference game between two former Colonial Athletic Association rivals at John B. Schuerholz Park on Tuesday afternoon.
A pre-season All-American second team selection, Wertz entered the game with a .222 batting average and only 19 runs batted in.
However, he had a two-run single in the third, a grand slam home run in the fourth and an RBI double in the fifth. In the seventh inning, he barely missed a two-run homer when the ball went just foul. His seven RBI’s were just one shy of the school record set by Steve Farling, ’94 in 1991. Farling had eight RBI’s in a win over Delaware in 1991.
However, the Tigers spotted George Mason a 6-0 lead before they started hitting.
The Patriots wasted little time taking a quick lead. On Joe Patton’s second pitch of the game, junior centerfielder Luke Willis lined his second home run of the season over the leftfield fence. Sophomore shortstop Brandon Gum followed with a single to leftfield. When senior third baseman Blaise Fernandez drew a walk, the Patriots had two runners on base with no outs. Senior leftfielder Tyler Tobin loaded the bases when he singled to rightfield.
While pitching to senior designated hitter Anthony Montefusco, Patton threw a wild pitch as Gum scored to give George Mason a 2-0 lead. When Montefusco drew a walk, the bases were loaded again. Patton struck out freshman rightfielder Nick Gallo for the first out. However, he walked senior catcher Patrick Esposito on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run, putting the Patriots ahead, 3-0.
At that point, Patton was relieved by lefthander Matt Golczewski. Golczewski pitched out of the inning without allowing any more runs. He got senior second baseman Chris Cook to lineout to centerfield. Then, senior first baseman Nick Foley lined out to shortstop to end the inning.
In the second inning, the Patriots rallied for three more runs. Willis led off with a triple to right centerfield for his second hit of the game. An RBI single by Gum scored Willis for a 4-0 lead. Fernandez reached base on a throwing error by Brady Policelli, the Tigers’ third baseman. He reached third as Gum scored all the way from first base to give the Patriots a 5-0 advantage. Moments later, a sacrifice fly by Tobin enabled Fernandez to score and give Mason a 6-0 advantage.
Trailing by 6-0 in the bottom of the third inning, the Tigers came to life. Senior second baseman Hunter Bennett started the inning with a single to centerfield. A single by freshman shortstop Colin Dyer and a walk to Brandon Gonnella loaded the bases with no outs. After senior lefthander Jake Kalish struck out Policelli, Wertz drilled a single to left field, driving in two runs to make it a 6-2 game. When senior Dominic Fratantuono reached on an error, the Tigers had the bases loaded again.
A single to left by junior Peter Bowles drove in two more runs to pull the Tigers to within 6-4. After Kalish struck out Chris Henze, he was relieved by senior righthander Neight Hoffa. Hoffa retired Bennett, the tenth batter of the inning, on a fly ball to centerfield, ending the rally.
After Golczewski retired George Mason in order in the top of the fourth, the Tigers went back to work in the bottom of the inning. Dyer and Gonnella led off with back-to-back singles. When Policelli reached on a bunt single, the Tigers had the bases loaded.
Wertz lined a 3-1 pitch down the right field line for a grand slam home run to put the Tigers ahead, 8-6. It was the 30th home run of his college career.
After walking the leadoff hitter in the fifth inning, Golczewski was relieved by senior lefthander Kyle Paul. Golczewski pitched 3.2 innings and allowed one earned run on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers continued their assault on George Mason pitching. Bennett led off with a walk. Dyer singled to left for his third hit of the game. When Gonnella hit a fly ball to centerfield, Willis made the catch and threw to third base, retiring Bennett trying to advance to third. Policelli followed with a triple to rightfield, scoring Dyer to give Towson a 9-6 lead. When Wertz doubled down the right field line, the lead was 10-6.
In the sixth inning, the Patriots loaded the bases with no outs. Foley drew a walk and Willis singled. A walk to Gum loaded the bases. Foley came in to score when Fernandez grounded into a force play. But, Paul pitched out of the jam when he struck out Tobin and retired Montefusco on a fly ball.
With their lead cut to 10-7, the Tigers added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Bowles led off with a single. After he stole second base, he scored on a double by Zach Fisher, giving Towson an 11-7 advantage. After Fisher moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, he scored on a sacrifice fly by Bennett to give Towson a 12-7 lead.
In the seventh inning, the Tigers increased their lead to 13-7. Policelli led off with a walk. He advanced to second base on a balk and reached third when Wertz flied out to centerfield. With the infield in, Fratantuono singled to give Towson a 13-7 lead.
In the eighth inning, the Patriots made a strong bid to tie the game. Fernandez led off with a double. When Tobin singled, the Patriots had runners at first and third. After pinch hitter Jayme Murray struck out, Derek Evans singled to center to drive in a run. When Esposito singled to right center, the Patriots had the bases loaded while trailing 13-8.
Gonnella came in to pitch to relieve Garrett Walther. Cook greeted him with a single to centerfield, making the lead 13-9. However, Gonnella struck out Foley and Willis to end the threat.
In the ninth inning, Gonnella nailed down the win by striking out the last two hitters of the game.
Gonnella earned his ninth save by pitching 1.2 innings and allowing no runs on two hits with four strikeouts.
The Tigers, who tied their season highs with 13 runs and 15 hits, were led by Policelli, Wertz and Dyer. Each of them had three hits. Wertz had a single, a double and a home run with seven RBI’s. Policelli had three hits, including a triple. He scored three runs. Dyer also had three hits and scored three times. Bowles added two hits and drove in two runs.
Willis and Gum led the Patriots with three hits each.
The Tigers return to Schuerholz Park on Wednesday when they host Mount St. Mary’s at 3:30 p.m.