By Don Gilmore, Assistant Sports Editor
Max Maitland hit a tiebreaking two-run homer and the bullpen combined for over five innings of one-run ball as The Master’s University doubled up the University of Antelope Valley 8-4 on a cloudy and cold Wednesday afternoon in Placerita Canyon.
The non-conference victory was the Mustangs’ third in their past four games and improved their record to 17-10.
“A fantastic victory for us against a nationally-ranked team (No. 17),” said Mustang head coach Monte Brooks. “To have such a quality game in all areas was a big day for us.”
It was a big day for Maitland, too. At least for one at-bat.
An All-GSAC performer last year, the junior centerfielder has struggled mightily through the first half of the 2018 campaign, hitting just .215 through 27 games.
However, for at least one at-bat on Wednesday, the junior centerfielder didn’t miss.
He took a two-out, third-inning offering from Pioneer starter Gilberto Arroyo over the right field fence, plating courtesy runner Ricky Sottile ahead of him for a 3-1 lead.
The Mustangs tacked on another run in the frame when Preston White tripled and trotted home on Aaron Shackelford‘s RBI single up the middle.
The Mustang offense was far from finished and the bullpen was about to take care of their part.
Josh Robison led off the fourth with a double, moved to third base on a passed ball, and scored on Kameron Quitno‘s sacrifice fly to center field, extending the lead to 5-1.
The Pioneers halved that deficit in the last of the fourth, scoring two runs and chasing Mustang starter Jaiden France.
Enter reliever Eric Williams, who proceeded to keep the Pioneers off the board during his 2 1/3-inning stint.
His teammates gave him more of a cushion to work within the top of the sixth, scoring three more runs.
Shackelford led off the frame with his fourth homer of the year, a solo shot over the right-field fence. France followed with a single and raced to third base on Robison’s second double of the afternoon.
Quitno followed with a run-scoring single that plated France and when Quitno got caught up in a rundown, Robison slid into home safely for an 8-3 lead.
That was more than enough for the Mustangs as the bullpen, with the exception of one bad pitch in the eighth inning, performed admirably.
After Williams (3-0) was done, Nate Bonsell threw two innings of one-run ball and White closed the game with a scoreless ninth, notching his sixth save of the season.
White, who went 2-5, scored the game’s initial run in the top of the first when he tripled with two outs and scored on a wild pitch.
Three other Mustangs had two hits. Shackelford, France, and Robison all went 2-4 as TMU collected 10 hits.
Here’s the box score.
Now, the Mustangs hit the road where they’ll play their next six games.
First up is a three-game set at William Jessup this weekend. Due to expected inclement weather, the Mustangs and Warriors will play a doubleheader on Saturday and then wind up the quick NorCal trip with a rare Sunday game.