Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
The Mustangs believed they would be an improved club on offense in 2019. TMU’s lineup, the team said, would be deeper, filled with players capable of launching longballs and forcing long afternoons on opposing pitchers.
This is what the Mustangs had in mind.
Master’s hit five home runs Friday in a 12-1 win over the University of Antelope Valley, taking down the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked team for the second straight day.
Anthony Lepre, a transfer senior, hit the first two home runs of his Mustang career, and Aaron Shackelford moved within one homer of tying TMU’s all-time mark.
What’s more, only two teams in the NAIA have hit more than five home runs in a game so far this season. Both hit six.
It was all more than enough for Master’s to win its third straight game and improve to 3-1-1 on the year. Antelope Valley, a participant in last season’s NAIA World Series, fell to 1-4.
The Mustangs advanced to the World Series in 2016 and 2017 but missed the NAIA postseason all together last year, in part, because of a sputtering offense.
Master’s lacked depth and punch in its lineup, and it dropped out of the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament on the second day.
The Mustangs have designs on a deeper run this time around, and the arrivals of transfers Roy Verdejo, who hit a decisive three-run homer in Thursday’s win, and Lepre are a big part of that belief.
Lepre broke out Friday, going 3-for-5 and whacking the ball all over Herwaldt Stadium.
After flying out to the deepest part of center field early in the game, Lepre launched an opposite-field home run to right in the seventh inning. He removed his helmet and Shackelford rubbed his head on the way to the dugout.
In the eighth, Lepre walloped a pitch over the fence in left.
“Yeah, I hit the ball out,” Lepre said, “but the best thing is winning and doing it for the Lord.”
Byron Smith, Nick Tuttle and Shackelford were the other Mustangs to leave the yard.
For Smith and Tuttle, the home runs were the first of their respective Mustang careers.
For Shackelford, it was the 33rd homer of his career, placing him on the doorstep of Michael Sexton’s program record. This one, a solo shot, extended TMU’s lead to 5-1 in the fourth inning.
The Mustangs totaled 14 hits, a season high, and never trailed, leading 4-0 in the third after Smith deposited a ball into tree branches more than 10 feet above TMU’s two-story clubhouse in left.
Smith, for one, wasn’t surprised by TMU’s team-wide production.
“This is normally what I expect from our guys,” he said.
Aidan Stout kept the Pioneers from coming close. The Mustang righty tossed six innings of one-run baseball, striking out four and walking three. He surrendered five hits and made good pitches when he had to — like when Antelope Valley put two on with no outs in the third — recorded a strikeout and induced a 5-3 double play, impressing his coach with the way he kept a high-powered offense off balance.
“These guys swing it,” said coach Monte Brooks, “so for him to have a couple real good shutdown innings for us, that was great.”
Saturday, the four-game series shifted to Lancaster, where the teams faced off inside The Hangar, home of the Colorado Rockies’ Single-A affiliate.