By Mason Nesbitt, Sports Information Director
To beat Hope International 7-6 in a crucial Golden State Athletic Conference showdown Friday, The Master’s University baseball team needed a marathon sixth inning that featured seven hits and five runs.
To describe the deluge, coach Monte Brooks needed three words.
“One clutch inning,” Brooks said after TMU blitzed the host Royals at Amerige Park behind an Aaron Shackelford home run and six singles. Then Master’s (22-17, 14-14 in GSAC) held on behind gritty relief appearances by freshman Caleb Jaime and sophomore Aidan Stout.
Hope (19-21, 11-17) put runners at second and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth before Stout struck out the game’s final two batters swinging.
“Bulldog approach by Aidan getting out of a couple of jams,” Brooks said.
An inning earlier, the Royals loaded the bases against Stout with no outs. But they came away with only one run in what was a much-improved performance by the Mustangs pitching staff.
Tuesday, TMU allowed 11 runs on 16 hits in a GSAC loss to Westmont College. That left less room for error this weekend as the fourth-place Mustangs took on a team only two games behind it in conference standings.
Hope is now three games back of TMU, as is Menlo College. At least one of those three, it would seem, will miss the five-team GSAC tournament later this month.
Menlo beat Arizona Christian on Friday, and the Mustangs did their part to answer with a strong sixth.
After Shackelford’s team-leading eighth blast of the year, Preston White singled. Then Kameron Quitno singled. The rally was on.
Josh Robison, Max Maitland and Jaiden France all tagged RBI singles in the frame. Maybe the most impressive base knock came from Eric Williams, a junior pitcher who only started hitting again in practice last week.
Williams hit at West Ranch High and early in his Mustang career before focusing only on the mound where he’s been one of TMU’s best relief pitchers this year.
Brooks said he felt the offense needed a spark. So Williams pinch hit and finished 1-for-3. It was his fourth collegiate hit and first since 2016.
Scott Savage, TMU’s best pitcher lately, started on the bump, but went only two innings and left with the Mustangs trailing 4-0. Tristan Hildebrandt — who previously played for Cal State Fullerton — and Blake Ronca each homered in the second inning for Hope, which has lost to TMU by one run in each of the teams’ four meetings this season.
Jaime earned his first collegiate win, tossing five innings of one-run ball. He struck out nine, walked two and allowed five hits.
“Outstanding,” said Brooks, who intimated earlier in the year that he hoped to see the freshman step into a bigger bullpen role down the stretch.
Master’s and Hope met again Saturday in a double-header.