Johnson’s eight-RBI night powers JMU baseball to comeback win over George Mason

jmu logoSophomore first baseman Brett Johnson hit a go-ahead, three-run home run in the seventh inning to a cap an eight-RBI evening and lift the James Madison baseball team to a 15-13 victory over George Mason in non-conference action on Tuesday night at Eagle Field at Veterans Memorial Park.

The Dukes used a nine-run fifth inning to erase early deficits of 7-0 and 10-3 before Johnson’s blast helped JMU move to 13-24 on the season. Mason spread 11 hits across seven hitters but yielded a total of 10 walks and five hit batsmen as it fell to 16-21-1 in 2015.

Johnson’s 2-for-5 night included seven total bases as he drove in eight runs with his three-run homer, a three-run triple, a bases-loaded walk and an RBI groundout. The sophomore’s eight RBIs were just one short of JMU’s single-game record, set at 9 by Greg Miller on May 18, 2000 vs. Richmond.

Freshman center fielder Michael Sciorra notched his third three-hit game of the season with a 3-for-3 evening that saw him score four runs and drive in another. Sophomore left fielder Ky Parrott added a 2-for-3 performance that included three RBIs and three runs.

The Patriots jumped ahead early on JMU, racking up seven runs on just five hits in their first three at-bats before the Dukes were able to respond in the bottom of the third.

Sciorra started the rally with a one-out single to center field before freshman second baseman Kyle McPherson was hit by a full-count pitch to put runners on first and second. Parrott followed the freshmen by tripling down the right field line on the eight pitch he saw, cutting Mason’s lead to 7-2 before Johnson bounced a groundout to third to score Parrott.

Mason extended its lead to 10-3 in the top of the fifth with three runs on three hits. After starting the inning with a walk and an RBI double, the Patriots used two consecutive RBI singles to put the Dukes back in a seven-run hole prior to their rally in the bottom half of the frame.

JMU started the inning with a double from Sciorra and a five-pitch walk from McPherson, putting the freshmen on first and second for the second time in three innings. After Parrott followed with a five-pitch walk of his own, Johnson drilled a line drive just over the second baseman’s head that reached the fence, cleared the bases and left the sophomore standing on third with his first career triple.

After an RBI groundout from junior shortstop Kyle Weston made it 10-7, the Dukes loaded the bases again, this time with two outs. Six straight Dukes were either walked or hit by a pitch, plating four runs to give JMU its first lead off the game at 11-10.

A wild pitch then allowed McPherson to score for the second time in the inning to cap the fifth-inning scoring at nine runs, the most productive frame of the season for JMU, and put the Dukes ahead, 12-10.

The Patriots immediately responded with three runs of their own in the top of the sixth, all coming with no outs. After a hit-by-pitch and a single to left field opened the frame, first baseman Trevor Kelly launched a 1-2 pitch over the left-center wall to put Mason back on top, 13-12, and set up Johnson’s homer in the seventh.

Sciorra led off that frame with a single, his third leadoff hit of the evening, before Parrott drew a one-out, four-pitch walk. After watching a ball and a strike, Johnson made his first swing count, blasting his sixth home run of the season over the left-center field fence to give JMU a 15-13 lead that they would not relinquish.

Junior Mark Gunst picked up the win for JMU, moving to 2-2 after four crucial frames in relief. The right-hander allowed just one hit across four shutout innings, striking out five without yielding a walk. Taylor Hunt, one of seven Patriots to pitch on the evening, fell to 0-2, taking the loss for Mason after allowing Johnson’s homer.

The Dukes are back in action this weekend, April 24-26, in a crucial, three-game Colonial Athletic Association series against sixth-place Towson. JMU will face the Tigers at 6:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday before closing the series with a 2 p.m. contest on Sunday afternoon.

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