On a day when The Master’s College split a non-conference doubleheader they took another step forward in their quest for a GSAC regular-season championship. Thanks to San Diego Christian.
After the ninth-ranked Mustangs beat No. 11 Cal State San Marcos 11-4 in the opener before dropping the nightcap 10-2, they found out that second-place Concordia had also split with San Diego Christian, keeping their two-game lead over the Eagles and lowering their magic number to two with three games left. The Mustangs finish the regular season next weekend against Westmont.
In the opener, the Mustangs saved the best for almost last, tallying all 11 runs over the final three frames to rally past the Cougars. After being held to two hits by James Dykstra through the first six innings, the Mustangs finally got to the senior righthander in the seventh, knotting the game with a pair of runs on five hits.
Joe Riddle (Bakersfield, CA) led off the frame with a double down the right field line and trotted home moments later when Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) slammed a run-scoring triple to the alley in right-center field. The junior wasn’t on third base very long because Chris Talley (Simi Valley, CA) singled him in with the tying run. The Mustangs produced two more hits in the inning and had a chance to snap the deadlock but courtesy runner Bryce Clancy (Phoenix, TX), running for Talley, was thrown out at the plate after Caleb Halverson (Temple City, CA) popped out to center field.
However, the tie was only temporary as the Mustangs took advantage of a pair of Cougar errors and rapped out four hits in a five-run eighth inning. Shackelford’s bases-loaded, two-run double plated Steven Karkenny (Chatsworth, CA) and Cody Harris (Lakewood, CA) with the runs that put the Mustangs ahead for good and that was just the beginning. Talley stepped to the plate and promptly whacked a two-run single through the left side, scoring Talley and Shackelford, and Sam Robison’s (San Juan Capistrano, CA) sacrifice fly, sending Talley home, capped off the five-run outburst for a 7-2 lead.
The Mustangs continued the onslaught an inning later, adding four more runs to turn the game into a runaway. Four different players drove in runs in the final frame, ignited by a Harris single that scored Karkenny, who had led off with a double to center field. Later on, Robison’s second sacrifice fly of the game plated Riddle, Halverson brought in another run when he drew a walk with the bases loaded, and Jon Popadics (Boise, ID) finished off the scoring with an infield single that brought in Talley.
The late-inning runfest may have been the game’s most dramatic development but Andrew Klausmeier’s (Northridge, CA) work on the mound can’t be overlooked. The junior righthander, making his fourth start of the campaign, was superb over eight innings of work. He gave up single runs in the third and sixth innings, respectively, and other than that and six walks, he kept the Cougars at bay.
Unfortunately, Tyler Elrod couldn’t replicate that in the nightcap. For the second start in a row, the senior righthander struggled, going just 4 1/3 innings and giving up all 10 Cougar runs on 14 hits. The Cougars scored at least run in their first five at-bats and put the game away with a five-run fourth.
It was a game before that Cougar outburst as the Mustangs tallied twice in the top of the of fourth to draw within 3-2. Harris led off the frame with a base hit up the middle and scored ahead of Riddle’s home run to right field, his sixth roundtripper of the year. That was it, though, for an offense that produced eight hits and left only three runners on base.
Robison was the lone Mustang with more than two hits in the nightcap, rapping out a pair of singles.
Now, the Mustangs turn their attention to a Westmont club that they swept back in early March. At the most, two wins will net the Mustangs a GSAC championship and depending on what Concordia does against Vanguard, maybe only one victory will do.
The series’ opener against the Warriors opens on Friday at 3pm on Reese Field.