Tuesday evening provided a good example as to why Mason High School senior Byron Mendenhall has established himself as one of the top baseball players in Virginia. In the Mustangs’ first true home game since last season, Mendenhall drove in all three of his team’s runs and fanned 10 batters over seven innings to down Madison County 3-1 and improve Mason’s record in the Bull Run District to 4-3 on the season.
Mendenhall drove home the tying run in the bottom of the third inning, lining a base hit to left field. That single drove in senior Joe Muskett who slid home just ahead of a throw from left field that drew the Mountaineers’ catcher slightly up the third base line.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Mendenhall delivered again, this time drilling a 2-2 pitch down the left field line for a double. Muskett and senior Jimmy Piscopo came around to score after Muskett walked and Piscopo was struck by a pitch.
From there Mendenhall cruised, striking out two of the next three batters and retiring the final six Mountaineers in order. After allowing Madison County a run in the top of the first inning, the Mustangs’ ace didn’t allow another base runner all game. During that stretch, only one Madison County batter got the ball out of the infield — a routine fly to right field.
The game against the Mountaineers was the only one of the week for the Mustangs after their game against Strasburg last Friday had to be rescheduled due to the replacement of the netting on the Mason High backstop. The repair project forced Mason off campus for their first scheduled Bull Run District home game of the season, a 12-2 victory over Rappahannock in a game played at Falls Church High School. The Strasburg game has been rescheduled for May 16 at Mason.
The temporary displacement extended a season-long road trip that included a string of four games on four consecutive days in mid-April. The streak of away games hit 15, including the “home” game at Falls Church High, before the Madison County game.
“Physically, I think the kids were able to handle it. The problem was us losing a couple of games in a row and the players getting down on themselves mentally,” Mason Head Coach Adam Amerine said. “Now if you ask the parents or teachers about the academics or chores around the house, I am sure they will tell you that was the most taxing part of our travels. I’m sure it was not pretty.”
Nevertheless, the trials of April took a toll on Mason’s record, as the Mustangs dropped their first three games on the Bull Run District schedule.
“We gave away games at Rappahannock and Strasburg on the road and the kids started to press and try to do too much and got away from playing our team game of bunting, good base running and getting solid defense and pitching,” Amerine said.
Despite the early bumps in the road, the Mustangs (9-7 overall) now have a good opportunity to make some headway, with the remaining three games of their schedule all at home. The team next faces Clarke County this Friday at 5 p.m. before concluding its regular season next Tuesday and Wednesday against Manassas Park and Strasburg.
“We have changed gears and made our focus to be peaking come next Friday or Tuesday in the district tournament. That is when we need to play our best baseball,” Amerine said. “Now obviously if we can win these last few games it puts us in a position not to have to travel for the district tournament because we certainly have had enough of that.
Notes: Mendenhall and Piscopo have both committed to Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va. for next season. The two had been considering Christopher Newport as well, but had begun to lean towards RMC heading into this season. The team already features pitcher Kyle Hicks, a standout on the Goochland state championship team that ended the Mustangs’ season in 2006.
“I am very proud of [Byron and Jimmy],” Amerine said. “Anytime you get a couple of players who have the drive and desire to keep playing for fun and the enjoyment is what makes baseball great.”
Amerine went on to indicate that both Mendenhall and Piscopo ought to have an opportunity to make an immediate impact on their future team.