Arizona Christian didn’t have a chance against A.J. Work in late February when the lefthander tossed six innings of two-hit, shutout ball in a 10-1 Mustang win. On Friday afternoon in the desert, the Firestorm didn’t let the southpaw out of the fifth inning, scoring four runs in that frame and then tacking on eight more later on en route to a 15-4 humbling of the Mustangs.
The loss snapped the Mustangs’ five-game winning streak and coupled with Concordia’s win over Biola, reduced the club’s first-place lead in the GSAC to 2 1/2 games. With just two weeks left in the regular season, the No. 6 Mustangs are 32-12 overall and 22-9 in conference play.
Eager to avenge a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mustangs back in February, the Firestorm struck early. After ACU starter Tanner Tripp stranded three Mustangs on the bases in the top of the first inning, his teammates went to work in the bottom of the frame, tallying three runs on a trio of hits off Work (8-4).
The Mustangs got one of those back in the top of the second when Jon Popadics’ (Boise, ID) groundout to shortstop plated courtesy runner Nalu Polancic (Vista, CA), who was running for Chris Talley (Simi Valley, CA) after the senior catcher was plunked by a Tripp pitch.
That 3-1 lead held up until the fifth when the Mustangs parlayed three singles, a walk, and a wild pitch into a tie. Spencer Downs (Kelso, WA) led off the inning with a base hit to right field, advanced to second base on a wild pitch, moved to third on a Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) single, and scored on a Talley fielder’s choice. Then, with two outs, Cody Harris (Lakewood, CA) reached on an infield single that plated Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA), who walked earlier in the inning, with the tying run.
However, that knot was quickly untied as the Firestorm chased Work in the last of the fifth, eventually scoring four runs against the southpaw and reliever Daniel Sheaffer (Mt. Airy, NC), taking a lead (7-3) they would never relinquish.
Two innings later, the Firestorm used a pair of run-scoring doubles to score three more times for a 10-3 advantage.
The Mustangs scored their final run in the top of the eighth when an Anthony Leal (San Juan Capistrano, CA) groundout scored Harris who had tripled down the right field line with one out.
For good measure, the Firestorm scored five more runs in their final at-bat, finishing off a frustrating afternoon for a beleaguered Mustang staff that surrendered a season-high in runs.
Harris paced the Mustangs’ 10-hit attack with three hits while Shackelford and Popadics rapped out two apiece.
The Mustangs should forget about this one quickly, especially with a doubleheader against the Firestorm facing them Saturday.