Big fifth inning is costly for Warren County

FRONT ROYAL – Everything unraveled for Warren County’s baseball team in the fifth inning of Friday’s game against visiting George Mason at Bing Crosby Stadium.

With the score knotted at 1-1 heading in the top of the fifth inning, the Mustangs erupted for seven runs on six hits and a Wildcats error to power an eventual 11-1 Bull Run District victory. It was George Mason’s 11th straight win to open the 2015 season.

“They’re good. They’re [11-0] for a reason. We played with them for four innings and then we kind of imploded,” Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said.

Wildcats starting pitcher John Reith was able to avoid major damage through the first four innings after giving up an RBI single to Chris Meador (3-for-5, three RBIs) in the top of the first inning. Reith stranded five runners and limited the Mustangs to two hits in that span, but George Mason’s bats exploded in the fifth.

The top of the Mustangs’ lineup opened the frame by loading the bases with three straight singles — one on a bunt by Marsden Davis — and sophomore cleanup hitter Zachary Lang broke the tie with a two-run single on a grounder up the middle.

“We kind of were saying in that inning that we wanted [Reith] to supply the power and most of our hits kind of went opposite field that inning,” Mustangs coach Adam Amerine said. “We just took a better approach, shortened up a little bit and the results were pretty positive.”

George Mason starting pitcher Logan Nesson helped his own cause with an RBI single one out later, and another Mustangs single to re-load the bases chased Reith from the game.

Warren County (4-4, 4-4 Bull Run) reliever Josh France walked the first batter he faced and hit No. 9 hitter Jacob Abruzzi to plate two more runs, and a pair of runs scored on a fielder’s choice and a Wildcats throwing error on a double-play attempt to put the Wildcats in an 8-1 hole.

“They had a couple tweeners and a couple walks,” Mathews said. “When I took John out … he’d thrown enough. It wasn’t his night. And he wasn’t getting some of the called strikes he usually gets, so he was getting frustrated.”

Reith was charged with seven earned runs on four walks and eight hits in the losing effort. France gave up four runs (three earned) on one hit, two walks and two hit batters while striking out two in two innings pitched. France’s three earned runs came in the top of the seventh when George Mason batted around to extend its lead to 10.

Nesson was solid on the mound for the Mustangs in the win, as he went six innings and allowed one unearned run on three hits and two walks while striking out five. Lang pitched the seventh and struck out the side for George Mason.

Warren County’s lone run came in the bottom of the second inning. Stephen Johnson worked a one-out walk and moved to third on a stolen base and a passed ball, and Rhett Tierney beat out an infield single with two outs to score Johnson.

The Wildcats managed just one hit after the second inning.

“When they were on offense, they were very disciplined at the plate. They found out the umpire’s strike zone very quick,” Mathews said. ” … We didn’t adjust to how the game was being called. We hit some balls hard. We hit three or four balls on a line and the outfielders just made some nice outs. Just one of those games.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com