By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
The Mustangs’ recent string of rallies has evoked memories of last year’s epic run to the NAIA World Series.
So it was appropriate Tuesday that Aaron Shackelford, one of the heroes of that postseason high-wire act, was at the center of TMU’s 9-5 comeback win over the University of Antelope Valley at Master’s.
It was the Mustangs’ fourth straight come-from-behind win and their eighth straight victory overall – this one decided in the eighth inning when Shackelford delivered a double off the right field wall to put TMU up 6-5.
“We were down 5-1 on Saturday (against Hope International), and I was like, ‘We have this,'” Shackelford said. “It’s kind of like last year. We were down in the conference tournament, and we came back and won.
“It’s just having that confidence. We have guys who have been through it, been down big and come back.”
Master’s scored four runs in all in the bottom of the eighth, and Preston White recorded the final three outs on the mound so Master’s (13-4) could avenge last season’s 10-1 loss to the Pioneers.
If that wasn’t reason enough for the Mustangs to lock in for a midweek game, squeezed between a dramatic sweep of No. 8 Hope last weekend and a crucial series at Vanguard starting Friday, TMU was also aware that
Antelope Valley was coming off two big wins.
The Pioneers (9-7) split a four-game series with NAIA No. 1 Lewis-Clark State last weekend and were receiving votes themselves in the preseason top 25.
Master’s came in at No. 14 in that poll, and it looked for the first couple weeks of the season like it might drop.
Not so fast.
The Mustangs have played better defense and, most notably, stuck their hand in the elevator door just as their opponents are ready to rise to victory.
“(The key is) just confidence,” said catcher Ryan Bricker, “not letting the difficulties get to us.”
Bricker finished 3-for-5 at the plate, his RBI push bunt in the fourth inning tying the score, 1-1.
Master’s ran its lead to 3-1 by the end of the sixth inning, but Antelope Valley struck for four in the seventh, three coming in on Tyler Pittmon’s home run.
The hole was 5-3. And once again Master’s was up to the challenge. It scored two in the bottom of the seventh, highlighted by Josh Robison‘s game-tying RBI single, another big hit for the senior second baseman.
Robison hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning last Saturday that broke a 5-5 tie. Master’s held on to win 7-6.
No such dramatics were necessary Tuesday as the Mustangs scored four runs of their own on three hits and an error in the eighth.
“It’s a statement to beat a team that comes off splitting with (Lewis-Clark State),” Bricker said. “We’re just trying to take it one at a time.”
Mustang starter Jaiden France was solid, allowing one run in five innings. He struck out six and walked two.
Robison, Pearson Good and Nick Tuttle each had two hits for Master’s, which plays at Vanguard in Costa Mesa at 2 p.m. on Friday and again Saturday in a double-header with the first pitch at 11 a.m.
Master’s leads Vanguard by one game in the Golden State Athletic Conference standings.