The Master’s College baseball team traveled to the Valley of the Sun Thursday with high expectations, ones that included beating an Arizona Christian club it had swept back in February and at the same time hoping to draw ever closer to its first regular-season GSAC championship in 10 years.
When the team left the desert 48 hours later it had met neither one as the Firestorm completed a weekend sweep, beating the Mustangs 7-0 and 13-3 in a doubleheader Saturday afternoon. Not only did the Mustangs (32-14, 22-11 GSAC) suffer their first series sweep of the 2013 campaign but coupled with second-place Concordia’s twinbill split with Biola, they watched their once firm hold on first place in the conference slip to 1 1/2 games over Concordia. In fact, both clubs are tied in the loss column with the Mustangs having three GSAC games remaining while the Eagles have six.
In the opener, pitching dominated early as TMC’s James Scott (Canyon Country, CA) and ACU’s Mike Lachapelle tossed zeroes through the first four innings. That all changed in the bottom of the fifth, however, as the Firestorm roughed up and then chased Scott (5-4) to the tune of five runs on five hits.
That’s all Lachapelle needed as the senior lefthander stymied the Mustangs the rest of the way, tossing a complete-game, eight-hit shutout that included 12 strikeouts. The Mustangs had their chances in the first five frames, rapping out six hits but they stranded seven, including two each in the third and fifth innings, respectively. Once Lachapelle got some runs to work with, though, he was nearly unhittable, surrendering just two hits over the final four frames and whiffing six Mustangs in that span.
Although they rapped out eight hits, featuring two apiece from Jon Popadics (Boise, ID), Cody Harris (Lakewood, CA), and Caleb Halverson (Temple City, CA), it was the eighth time in 2013 that the Mustangs were shut out.
That number didn’t reach nine in the nightcap because the Mustangs scored a run in the third inning, snapping a string of 12 consecutive frames without a run. However, when they did so, it came on a doubleplay when Halverson, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame, eventually came across when Steve Karkenny (Chatsworth, CA) grounded into the twin killing. Even then, the game was virtually over because the Firestorm had put up seven runs in the second against starter Tyler Elrod (7-3), who lasted just a season-low 1 1/3 innings, and reliever Tommy Kister (Saugus,CA).
The Firestorm didn’t let up, either, as they tallied two more runs in the third and then closed out its big weekend with a four-run fifth. So, a day after giving up a season-high 15 runs, the mound staff allowed 13 more on 12 hits in the series’ finale. Meanwhile, the Mustangs managed just three hits.
The Mustangs scored their second run in the sixth when a Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) groundout plated Spencer Downs (Kelso, WA), who had reached on a fielder’s choice. In their seventh and final at-bat, the Mustangs tallied their third run of the day when another groundout, this one off the bat of Popadics (Boise, ID), sent courtesy runner Nalu Polancic (Vista, CA) home.
Returning to Southern California, the Mustangs will remain on the road next weekend when they play a non-conference, three-game series at Cal State San Marcos.