Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
In Thursday’s eighth inning, with the score doing more to weary the home fans than relentless afternoon sun, Roy Verdejo provided a reprieve.
The Master’s University junior roped a ball that carried deep to center and banged off the wall. As he arrived at second, he mimicked Superman, pretending to pull back a Clark Kent button-down to reveal the famed “S.”
Verdejo’s drive helped the Mustangs remove the final vestiges of an untimely disguise. For the better part of a week, Master’s hadn’t looked like a team that recently won 15 straight and surged into first place of the Golden State Athletic Conference standings.
The skid left the Mustangs with work to do in the regular season’s final weeks, and while the club could gain no conference ground Thursday, it may have claimed momentum.
Master’s rallied for six runs in the bottom of the eighth, Verdejo’s double driving in the tying run in what became an 8-6 win.
Brayden Luft scored the game-winner from third on Ryan Bricker‘s safety squeeze later in the eighth, the Mustangs showing more than enough resiliency after allowing Arizona Christian to score seven unearned runs in the final inning of a TMU loss Wednesday.
“With yesterday, things like that happen,” said Bricker. “We just have to get to the next pitch, and so it was a good thing we had a game today so we could move on and focus on the present.”
TMU’s Kameron Quitno opened the scoring in the third with his fifth home run of the year, this one a low line drive that zipped out to right.
Mustang Aaron Shackelford demolished a solo home run high into the trees beyond right field an inning later. It was his 26th home run of the year, a number that tied him for the NAIA lead with teammate Anthony Lepre. Both players share TMU’s single-season record.
It wasn’t the longball, though, that keyed the Mustangs’ comeback.
Bethesda’s lead reached 6-2 in the eighth when Ivan Galindo raked a double into right center, bringing in two runs and leaving the Mustangs (29-14-1) vulnerable. A loss would have been TMU’s sixth in seven games.
Instead, the Mustangs got the bats rolling.
Coach Monte Brooks credited his team’s increased plate discipline late in the game for turning the tide. Over the first seven innings, Bethesda starter Antonio Elizalde aptly mixed his fastball and breaking ball to keep TMU off balance. He allowed four hits through the first seven innings.
“We just had to hit pitches in the zone,” Bricker said. “Once we swung at pitches in the zone, we let it fly and hit the ball hard.”
Shackelford led off the eighth with a walk. Lepre blasted a ground-rule double to left center. Then Will Batz tagged a single through the right side for an RBI.
Max Maitland hooked a double into the right-field corner to bring in two runs and set the stage for Verdejo.
“It was a fastball down low,” Verdejo said of his double. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, just trying to drive the ball, you know, and do my job.”
The Mustangs’ job will be to play the way they did at the end of Thursday’s game next week when they host GSAC foe Ottawa Arizona for a pair of doubleheaders on Wednesday and Thursday.
Master’s is three games back of first-place Arizona Christian. Six teams remain within three games of each other entering the final week of the regular season, and only five will make the conference tournament.