Aaron Alexander pitched eight shutout innings in the opener and Michael Sexton drove in a total of five runs to pace The Master’s University to a doubleheader sweep of St. Katherine Saturday afternoon at Lou Herwaldt Stadium.
The 6-0 and 9-4 victories lifted the Mustangs above the .500 mark (13-11) for the first time in three weeks.
Alexander, once again, was spectacular in the opener. He cruised to his staff-high fifth win (5-1) of the season, blanking the Firebirds on six hits while striking out seven in his eight-inning stint. Alexander now boasts a staff-best 1.71 ERA.
The Firebirds had few chances to score against Alexander, stranding two in the fifth inning and leaving a runner at second base in the seventh before the senior righthander ended with a flourish, retiring the visitors in order in the eighth.
Well before that, the Mustang offense gave Alexander plenty of runs to work with, scoring once in the third and adding five more in the fifth inning for good measure.
In the third, Max Maitland was hit by a pitch, jogged to second when Aaron Shackelford walked, and advanced to third on an error by Firebird starter Jason Montville. Shackelford promptly swiped second base and when Jonah Jarrard walked, the bases were full of Mustangs. David Sheaffer then plated Maitland with a sacrifice fly for the second day in a row for a 1-0 lead.
Two innings later, the Mustangs put the game away, parlaying four hits and two Firebird errors into five runs. Sheaffer singled in Shackelford with the frame’s first run and then Sexton, making just his second appearance in three weeks, doubled down the right field line to score Sheaffer and Ethan Brandt, who was running for Jarrard. Freshman Ryan Bricker capped the uprising with a two-run single to center field that plated Ricky Sottile and Sexton.
The Mustangs made the most of their seven hits in the opener with Sheaffer’s 2-4, two-rbi performance leading the way.
The nightcap featured much more offense and Sheaffer and Sexton were at the center of it again. Sexton singled in a run and scored on a bases-loaded walk to Matt Janes in a five-run first inning and Sheaffer drew a free pass and scored on another bases-loaded walk, this one to Ricky Sottile. Danny Lutz singled in another run in the frame and Bricker’s sacrifice fly to center field plated Lutz with the inning’s final run.
Mustang starter Jason Karkenny (3-1) took that support and made it work in a gutsy, complete-game (seven innings) performance. The righthander, who became the school’s winningest pitcher last weekend, struck out six and walked one while surrendering six hits. His line wasn’t stellar but his tenacity was.
The Firebirds got to him for single runs in the first and third innings and then added two more in the fourth that only halved the deficit. An rbi single from Blake Chandler gave the Firebirds a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. That was eclipsed by the five TMU runs in the last of that inning and then the Mustangs scored three more times in the second to lead 8-1.
Shackelford ignited the inning with a lead-off double to left-center field and was on second base when Jarrard was plunked by a pitch. Sexton then drove in Shackelford with a double to left-center and Sheaffer followed quickly with a two-run double to left field that scored Sexton and courtesy runner Brandt.
St. Katherine used an rbi double in the third inning to pull within 8-2 and then cut the margin in half on a two-run homer in the fourth. That was the last run Karkenny gave up as he blanked the Firebirds the rest of the way. He retired St. Katherine in order in the fifth inning, stranded two in the sixth, and closed out the victory with a couple of strikeouts in the seventh.
Sexton went 3-4 with three rbi in the nightcap to lead the Mustangs, who had 11 hits. Sheaffer drove in two more runs and was 2-3 while Lutz also collected two hits.
Winners of seven of their past eight, the Mustangs now prepare for their toughest series of the season next weekend when they travel to Santa Barbara to take on No. 8 Westmont in a single game Friday and a doubleheader on Saturday.