By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
FULLERTON — Hope International’s John Santospago needed two swings to slow the roll of a Mustang team on the cusp of momentum in the race for the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament.
Santospago took an emphatic, but empty, cut at Nate Bonsell‘s first offering with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh inning of Saturday’s first game.
A Hope assistant coach signaled Santospago toward the dugout for a meeting, maybe reminding the junior that the infield was drawn in, the score was tied and average contact would do.
On the next pitch, Santospago skied a high fly ball to left. TMU’s Nick Tuttle drifted to the wall and eyed it, but there was no stopping the dagger from carrying out of Amerige Park in Fullerton and the Royals from running away with a 13-5 win.
For Hope (20-21, 12-17 in GSAC), it was a continuation.
The Royals have scored 62 runs in their last five GSAC games. They scored 10 runs on six hits and two errors in Saturday’s seventh inning. Three Mustang arms went to the hill in the frame, none could keep Hope from turning the tide in what was a 3-3 game to that point.
The win brought the Royals within two games of fourth-place TMU (22-18, 14-15) in conference standings (the top five teams make the GSAC tournament later this month). It also marred Robert Winslow‘s best start in a month.
The Mustang ace, who allowed three runs and struck out eight, made it through six innings for the second time this season and for the first time since March 3. He stayed low in the zone and pitched out of clear and regular danger.
The Royals put at least one man in scoring position in each of the first five innings but came away with just three runs, the final two erasing the last of a 3-1 Mustang lead built on the backs of solo blasts.
Aaron Shackelford hit his team-leading ninth home run in the third, and sophomore Moises Garcia followed suit in the fourth.
It was Garcia’s first collegiate home run. It wasn’t enough to hold off a Hope team that had dropped six straight to the Mustangs dating back to last season, the last four all by one run.
If Hope was frustrated, it took it out on the Mustangs in the seventh. Bonsell, a regular in the starting rotation for most of the year, made his second relief outing of the week after throwing three innings, and close to 40 pitches, on Tuesday.
The move correlated with coach Monte Brooks‘ decision to slot closer Preston White (pictured above) into the starting rotation. White was expected to start Saturday’s second game, a seven-inning contest suited to TMU’s biggest arm.
The Mustangs had opportunities to pull away early.
In the third, Nick Tuttle bunted for a hit, went first to third on a Josh Robison single and scored on a shallow fly out. But Master’s left the bases loaded later in the inning.
In the sixth, Garcia singled and Tuttle tallied his third hit. But TMU couldn’t move either runner.
Then came the nightmare seventh. After Santospago’s ship-sinking slam, Hope’s official Twitter account posted a GIF of Carlton Banks from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” performing a dance that’s become synonymous with celebration.
The feeling wasn’t mutual.