By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
Winning a three-game series, even in impressive fashion, has a different feel when you lose the final game.
You win the opener Friday night, you clinch the series Saturday morning and, in this case, you watch as Sam Neufeld launches a game-winning grand slam over the left field fence in extra innings to unravel hours of solid play.
Neufeld’s blast lifted Vanguard University to an 8-4 win over TMU at Lou Herwaldt Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The game was scheduled for seven innings. It went nine.
The Mustangs fell to 24-20 overall and 16-17 in Golden State Athletic Conference play. This after they clinched a berth in the GSAC tournament with a 7-2 win earlier in the day and an Arizona Christian loss to William Jessup.
The Mustangs had a chance to sweep Vanguard in a three-game set for the first time since 2014, but two rallies weren’t followed by a third.
Master’s fell behind 3-1 in the fourth and 4-3 in the fifth, answering both times to tie the score.
Ryan Bricker drilled a two-out single into center to plate two runs in the fourth. It came in an inning when everything seemingly went the Mustangs’ way.
With one out, Pearson Good struck out but the ball got away from Lions catcher Lucas Martinez and the throw to first base was wide.
Then Josh Robison skied the ball to shallow right center and miscommunication between outfielders provided a safe landing.
Moises Garcia followed with a sharp grounder to first; the first baseman dove and stopped it, but couldn’t control the ball in time to make a play.
Still, the Mustangs needed a clutch hit, and Bricker delivered.
“I knew I was going to get a fastball to hit,” Bricker said, “and thankfully the Lord allowed me to hit it.”
TMU’s Aidan Stout provided four strong innings in relief of starter Robert Winslow. But after retiring 12 of the first 14 batters he faced, Stout ran into trouble in the ninth.
With one out and a man on, Michael Fuchs singled to right and Tanner Perry went first to third. The Mustangs intentionally walked Joe Johnson, who had homered earlier in the game, to load the bases, and Neufeld made them pay, crowding the plate and driving a fastball over the fence.
It didn’t totally put a damper on the Mustangs’ fifth GSAC series win of the season, one that hinted at team-wide growth. Vanguard, the GSAC’s third-place team and a squad that received votes in the most-recent NAIA top 25, swept the Mustangs earlier this season in a heart-wrenching series.
Master’s had its chances to return the favor.
The Mustangs loaded the bases with one out in the third but came away with only one run. After Aaron Shackelford doubled and later scored on a wild pitch to force a 4-4 tie in the fifth, Master’s left the go-ahead run at third base. The Mustangs went down in order in the ninth.
“When you’re 2-0 on the weekend, you feel like you have them in your hands,” Bricker said. “But it happens. It’s baseball.”
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