George Mason blanks Wildcats

By Brad Fauber

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County’s baseball team knew there would be some rust when it finally took the field for the first time this spring against visiting George Mason on Thursday evening — and the Wildcats did indeed look less than sharp in a few areas.

The Wildcats’ pitching effort was solid against the Mustangs, but some early fielding miscues and cold bats doomed Warren County in a 3-0 loss.

Three Warren County errors in the first two innings led to George Mason’s first two runs, and Mustangs starting pitcher Grant Hagler tossed a complete game while limiting the Wildcats to just three hits and a walk.

“We had a couple errors early. I thought our pitching was fine. Our pitching is going to be good. We’ve just got to swing bats a little bit better,” Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. “We had some good at-bats, hit the ball at people, but I just thought in the middle innings we weren’t focused, had some bad at-bats.”

Part of that was due to the effort of Hagler on the mound, who was able to consistently work ahead of hitters. Hagler struck out six batters in the win and needed just 81 pitches to get through all seven innings.

“I think he was just locating the fastball. We did a good job of getting the first guy [out] each inning,” Mustangs coach Adam Amerine said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching all preseason, getting the first guy out each inning. It limits the offense.”

The Mustangs (2-0, 1-0 Bull Run District) gave Hagler all the offense he would need in the top of the first inning — with a little help from Warren County’s defense.

George Mason’s Marsden Davis ripped a one-out single to left field off Wildcats starting pitcher Austin King, and a two-out throwing error on a Chris Meador grounder allowed Davis to score.

The Mustangs added another run in the top of the second, as Hagler’s infield single up the middle was mishandled, allowing Daniel Butler — who walked to lead off the inning — to score from second with two outs.

“We knew that going in that they hadn’t been outside very much. If we could force them to make some mistakes early, that’s kind of what we were going for,” Amerine said.

George Mason added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning on an RBI single to right field by Logan Nesson off Warren County reliever John Reith.

The Wildcats (0-1, 0-1) could do little to back up King, who was impressive in his first career varsity start. King, a junior right-hander, went 5 1/3 innings while allowing three runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks. He also struck out five.

“Very impressive. He’s somebody we expect big things from,” Mathews said. “He was able to throw three pitches effectively. There in a couple innings he just breezed right through. His fastball, curveball, changeup — he had them way off-balance.”

Reith was also effective in his 1 2/3 innings of work, as he allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out two.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD