Tucker Richardson hurled six and two-thirds innings of shutout ball and The Master’s College bounced back from a shocking, game-one loss to blank Arizona Christian 3-0 in the nightcap, salvaging a doubleheader split with the Firestorm and winning another GSAC series.
The split was the club’s third of the season and its seventh series win of the campaign boosted the 12th-ranked Mustangs’ record to 19-3 overall and 12-3 in the GSAC. However, their lead in the conference standings shrunk to a game-and-a-half after San Diego Christian swept Vanguard.
After watching his club lose the opener 9-7 on a walk-off grand slam, Richardson (Modesto, CA) provided the perfect pick-me-up for the Mustangs, falling just one out short of recording his third complete game of the season but pitching superbly, nonetheless.
The lanky righthander wound up with five strikeouts and allowed just four hits in his second-longest stint of the year. He retired the Firestorm in order just once but picked off a runner in the first inning, struck out two with the bases loaded in the second, and induced double plays in the fourth and sixth frames, respectively.
After Firestorm starter Sam Landes retired the Mustangs in order in the first and third innings, respectively, and stranded two more in the second, the Mustangs finally broke through against the righthander in the fourth.
With one out, Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) doubled to the gap in left-center field and raced home on Tyler Krahn’s (Abbotsford, BC, Canada) single through the right side for a 1-0 lead. The Mustangs had a chance to add to that lead but couldn’t capitalize with the bases loaded.
Two innings later, the Mustangs used a pair of hits and took advantage of a Firestorm error to extend their advantage to 3-0. Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) led off with a single and then sped around the bases to score when Collin Nyenhuis (Vista, CA) doubled to right-center field. Ethan Stine (Apple Valley, CA) ran for Nyenhuis and advanced to third base on a fielder’s choice. Moments, later he crossed home plate when ACU’s pitcher threw the ball away.
Richardson responded to his teammates’ generosity with a shutdown sixth, preparing the way for another complete game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, even though he was just one out away. A two-out single brought Coach Monte Brooks to the mound where he brought in Steve Karkenny who finished things off, getting a game-ending groundout that preserved Richardson’s fifth win (5-1) of the season while notching his team-high third save.
The Mustangs outhit the Firestorm 8-4 with Shackelford, Krahn, and Robison rapping out two hits apiece.
In complete contrast, the opener featured much less effective preaching and much more offense. After a scoreless first inning, both squads dented the scoreboard in the second with single runs.
With two outs in the top of the second, Nyenhuis walked, moved to second on a balk, and scored when Josh Brown (Valencia, CA) slapped a single through the right side.
In the home half of the second, the Firestorm duplicated that, using a two-out single, a stolen base, and a single to knot the score.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the fourth when the Firestorm dinged Mustang starter James Scott (Canyon Country, CA) for three runs, turning a double, a walk, and a two-run triple into a 3-1 lead. A sacrifice fly capped the uprising and gave ACU a three-run lead after four.
The Mustangs got one of those back in the top of the fifth. With one out, Spencer Toth (Asheville, NC) was hit by a pitch and courtesy runner Bryce Clancy (Phoenix, AZ) reached second base on a groundout before Karkenny came up big with two outs, rapping a run-scoring single through the left side to slice the deficit in half.
The Firestorm matched that in the bottom of the frame, nicking reliever Andrew Klausmeier (Northridge, CA) for a run, sandwiching a pair of singles around a stolen base to extend the advantage to 5-2.
Over the next two innings, neither club could capitalize on scoring chances. The Mustangs left two aboard in the sixth and seventh, respectively, failing to close the gap.
However, in the eighth, the Mustangs did more than just carve away at the deficit. They caught and vaulted past the Firestorm with five runs on a like number of hits while taking advantage of a pair of ACU errors. Nyenhuis’ single through the right side plated Shackelford with the inning’s first run, Krahn scored on the first Firestorm error of the frame to make it a one-run game, and Karkenny put the Mustangs ahead with a clutch, two-out double to center field, scoring courtesy runners Stine and John Brazil (Potter Valley, CA) for a 6-5 lead. Joe Riddle (Bakersfield, CA) capped the five-run assault, rapping a single down the right field line to plate Karkenny and give the Mustangs a two-run advantage.
Klausmeier allowed a one-out double in the eighth but nothing else, protecting that lead as the clubs headed to the ninth.
The Mustangs had a chance to expand the margin in their final at-bat, loading the bases with two outs but Karkenny flew out to center field to end the threat.
That would come back to bite the Mustangs in dramatic fashion.
After Klausmeier surrendered a lead-off single in last of the ninth, he got the next two batters, putting his team within one out of a game-one win. However, that final out never materialized as the Firestorm kept the inning alive with a single and then loaded the bases on a walk. That set up a showdown with ACU’s Ryan Jones, who took a 1-2 pitch from Klausmeier and hit it over the fence in right field for a walk-off grand slam, stunning the Mustangs and setting off a Firestorm celebration.
With the loss, Klausmeier fell to 1-1.
At the plate, the Mustangs were outhit by the Firestorm for the second straight game, 12-9. Karkenny led the Mustangs with a 3-5, three-rbi performance while Krahn went 2-3.
Fortunately, the Mustangs had Richardson to turn to in the nightcap and the righthander turned in a performance that offset the disappointment of the opener.
After five days off, the Mustangs return to action next weekend, welcoming Menlo for a pair of non-conference doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday. The first pitch on Friday will be thrown at 11:45am.