By Mason Nesbitt, Sports Information Director
With two outs, two strikes and the bases chock-full of Warriors during Sunday’s ninth inning, William Jessup’s Kawaiola Takemura sprayed a single through the right side.
Needless to say, Master’s came out on the wrong side — of a 5-4 final score at McBean Park in Lincoln and a three-game sweep.
The Mustangs once led 4-0, back in the first inning, back when Jaiden France lifted a two-strike fastball over the left field wall to bring three teammates home.
It was France’s fourth homer of the year and his first-ever grand slam. He leads the team with 27 runs batted in.
“I was trying to capitalize on the opportunity to get ahead in the game,” France said. “It’s something we’ve all been struggling to do. He threw me a middle-in fastball on 1-2, and I just reacted.”
Master’s (17-13, 10-10 in Golden State Athletic Conference) otherwise struggled to bring base runners around, a theme throughout the three-game stop in Rocklin, a suburb of Sacramento.
The Mustangs left 14 men on base Sunday and 24 in the final 16 innings of a sweep at the hands of the Golden State Athletic Conference’s first-place team.
William Jessup (29-6, 19-2) has won seven straight games and holds a five-game lead over second-place Vanguard University. Master’s trails by 8.5 games, but on Sunday, at least, it didn’t trail until the bottom of the ninth when an error, a single and an intentional walk opened the door for Takemura’s heroics.
“We just couldn’t catch a break,” said Mustang junior Preston White, the team’s leader in batting average and saves. “We had bases loaded with no outs today and didn’t get a run. … We had a bunch of line drives at people and just couldn’t catch a break.”
White took the loss despite not allowing an earned run in 3 2/3 innings of work. He took over after Eric Williams and Caleb Jaime bridged the gap from starter Nate Bonsell, who allowed three earned in 2 1/3 innings.
Ryan Bricker and Max Maitland each went 3-for-4 at the plate for TMU. France finished 2-for-3 and felt afterward that the Mustangs would bounce back quickly.
“We always do,” he said.
Connor Braun homered for William Jessup, which went deep at least once in every game of the series and which earned the highest NAIA ranking in program history in early March, moving up to seventh.
Master’s started the year at 14th after advancing to the NAIA World Series last season for the third time since 2013. Last year’s run could serve as inspiration for this year’s team.
The 2017 club began the year 15-17 before going on a tear, winning the conference tournament and advancing to Lewiston, Idaho.
This year’s rendition is in better shape at four games over .500. But the offense has sputtered at times, and the pitching has lacked consistency.
The good thing: There’s still time.
Master’s travels to the Bay Area next weekend to take on Menlo College, which currently sits a game and a half behind the Mustangs for fourth place in GSAC standings.
Three-game sets with San Diego Christian, Hope International, Vanguard University and Westmont College still await TMU. San Diego and Hope currently rest behind TMU in the standings.
“We just have to focus on getting better and not focus on results,” White said.