This isn’t the way Monte Brooks and his Mustangs envisioned the start of conference play.
Hope International rapped out 12 hits, took advantage of TMU mistakes, and slid past The Master’s University 5-3 Monday night in Orange County to complete a three-game, GSAC-opening series sweep.
Losing for the fourth time in a row, the 11th-ranked Mustangs are 5-7 overall and 0-3 after the first weekend of conference games.
The Mustangs fell behind from the start when two errors and two Royal hits led to an unearned run in the last of the first inning.
An inning later, the Royals doubled the advantage, sandwiching a double and a single around a hit batsman to take a 2-0 lead.
The Royals kept it going in the third inning, using a two-run single and a passed ball to score three more times to expand the margin to five runs.
After putting men on board in each of the first three innings with no results, the Mustangs finally dented the scoreboard in the fourth with one swing of the bat. Senior designated hitter Dalton deVries led off the frame with a solo homer off Royal starter Dylan Potlongo. deVries’ second homer of the season carried over the fence in right field.
Two innings later, the Mustangs tacked on another run to close the gap to 5-2. Max Maitland led off the sixth frame with an infield single, moved to second base on a groundout, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, and scored on a wild pitch.
The Mustangs had a chance to get back into the game because starter Robert Winslow settled down after a rocky start that included a couple of unearned runs. The sophomore righthander kept the Royals off the scoreboard from the fourth through the sixth innings and was lifted with one out in the seventh. He wound up going 6 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on nine hits, and striking out five while falling to 0-2.
Reliever Nate Bonsell left the bases loaded in the seventh inning as the Mustangs stayed within striking distance.
They didn’t get anything going in the eighth, however, in the ninth they chipped away at the deficit one more time. Scott Savage reached on a Royal error and courtesy runner Luke Halverson raced to third base on Jason Karkenny’s double down the left field line. David Sheaffer plated Halverson with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3, however, Karkenny was thrown out trying to reach third base. That snuffed out the potential rally and a strikeout ended the game.
The Mustangs’ struggles at the plate (.220 team batting average through 12 games) continued as they managed only six hits. Karkenny had two of those.
After the game, Brooks said he “liked the way our pitchers threw today. (We just) couldn’t get any rallies going to score runs.”
The Mustangs will have an opportunity to work on that facet of their game Tuesday when they return home to host Corban of Oregon in a 2:00 p.m. start at Herwaldt Stadium.