Lewiston, Idaho – The Master’s University baseball team finally met a team that could outscore it and when No. 2 seed Faulkner broke out the bats in a 13-5 victory on Saturday night, the Mustangs watched the end of a 10-game winning streak and fell into the losers’ bracket at the 2017 Avista-NAIA World Series.
After averaging more than 10 runs per game during the winning skein that dates back to the club’s second contest in the GSAC Tournament on May 8, the Mustangs saw an Eagle squad score two runs or more in five of the first six innings of play Saturday afternoon. And, for the first time since early May, the Mustangs (40-22) had no answers that had become commonplace en route to remarkable postseason victories.
The Eagles jumped on Mustang starter Aaron Alexander (10-5) for six runs in the senior’s two innings of work. They parlayed a single, double, and error into two runs in the last of the first inning, used another double and single in the second to take a 4-0 lead, and knocked out Alexander in a three-run third, all of those coming on a Paolo Montezuma homer over the left field fence that was served up by reliever Scott Savage.
Facing their largest deficit (7-0) of the postseason, the Mustangs took a step back into the game in the top of the fourth when they strung together three hits and two fielder’s choices for two runs.
Junior catcher Jonah Jarrard led off the frame with a double that gave him the single-season record for hits (84), breaking Jerry Owens’ 14-year old record. Michael Sexton quickly followed with a single to right-center field that plated courtesy runner Ricky Sottile with the club’s first run. Sexton advanced to second base on Aaron Shackelford’s base hit, moved to third on a David Sheaffer fielder’s choice, and scored on Dalton deVries’ fielder’s choice.
However, an inning later the Eagles responded with a decisive, four-run fifth frame that blew the game open. They roughed up Savage for all of those runs that scored with two outs.
The Mustangs made a small dent in the deficit (11-3) in the top of the sixth when Sheaffer clubbed a two-out, solo home run to left field. It was the junior first baseman’s ninth round-tripper of the season and tied him with Sexton for the team lead with 60 rbi.
Once again, Faulkner answered, or rather, Montezuma did in the last half of the sixth. The senior catcher took a Nate Bonsell offering over the center field fence, a two-out, two-run blast that made it 13-3.
After going quietly in the seventh inning, the Mustangs posted their final tallies of the afternoon in a two-run eighth. With two out, Sexton doubled to deep right-center field and scored moments later on Shackelford’s single through the left side. Shackelford moved to second base on Sheaffer’s infield hit and kept on going around to score the game’s last run on a wild throw by Faulkner’s Olivier Basabe.
The Mustangs made a last-gasp attempt to draw closer in the top of the ninth, loading the bases on two walks and a hit batsman. However, Eagle reliever Jonathan Wilkins induced a game-ending groundout from Sexton to squash the threat.
Out-hit 14-10, the Mustangs were paced by the 3-4-5 trio of Sexton (3-for-5), Shackelford (3-for-4), and Sheaffer (2-for-4), who went a combined 8-13.
Dropped into the losers’ bracket and now facing elimination, the Mustangs can draw on their GSAC Tournament experience to buoy their confidence. After losing to Menlo in the GSAC tourney opener on May 7, the Mustangs staved off elimination over the next five games and emerged as the tournament champions.
They’ll put that experience to the test on Monday, May 28, when they take on Keiser of Florida at 11:30 a.m.
The Seahawks qualified for the World Series by winning the Kingsport Regional, lost on Friday to Series host Lewis-Clark State, and then beat Hope International earlier on Saturday to stay alive.