Gutting It Out
It hasn't been the senior year Tyler Bersano was expecting. The Master's College righthander was pegged as the staff ace prior to the start of the season, anticipating that his final collegiate campaign would produce a multitude of wins and put him on the radar of major league scouts.
Instead, after a strong start, he has struggled through a very average year, giving up more hits than innings pitched with an earned run average hovering around 5.00.
But, there has been no quit in Bersano and it was evidenced again on Thursday afternoon in Riverside when he gave No. 3 California Baptist some slack but recorded just enough big outs in a distance-going, 7-5 win over the Lancers. It was his club-best third complete game of the season as he improved to 4-4.
The victory was the Mustangs' second in three outings after they had dropped seven games in a row. They are now 15-14 overall and 6-10 in the GSAC.
Bersano's teammates gave him a big boost and some cushion to work with right away, scoring four runs in the top of the first. J. T. Adams doubled in Tanner Leighton with the inning's first run and Parker Price, who had doubled earlier, scored on a Lancer error for a 2-0 lead. Adams eventually scored on a double play and Bryan Lucas capped the uprising with a run-scoring single that plated Spencer Downs.
That four-run advantage lasted only two innings as the Lancers put up a two-spot in the bottom of the second, using three singles to halve the deficit. Two innings later, they sliced the margin to one run when a pair of two-out hits, a double and a single, made it a 4-3 game.
Following their first-inning burst, the Mustang bats went silent over the next four frames as Lancer reliever Travis Barnes blanked them on two hits. But, the righthander's command betrayed him in the top of the sixth and the Mustangs capitalized.
Barnes started the frame by walking Downs and Ben Ives, and moments later, Lucas made him pay, rapping a two-run double to left center field. Later in the inning, James Sloan, running for Lucas, advanced to third on a flyout and then scored on Leighton's single up the middle, extending the lead to 7-3.
In the bottom of the inning, Bersano did what every ace is expected to do after his club delivers runs for him: produce a shutdown frame with a 1-2-3 showing. He matched that in the seventh inning and retired eight consecutive batters in one stretch.
However, that streak came to an end with one swing of the bat in the eighth when Cal Baptist's Kevin Odom socked a leadoff home run. But, Bersano responded decisively, retiring the next three Lancer batters.
The same thing happened in the bottom of the ninth, too, when CBU's Zach Esquerra pounded a Bersano offering over the right-center field fence to lead off the inning. That was it, though, as Bersano closed out the win by setting down the next three batters.
In the middle of a tough season, one thing Bersano isn't doing (and, it's a good thing) is distributing free passes (10 walks in 64 innings) to batters. For the fourth time in nine starts he didn't walk a batter and struck out five Lancers.
Notably, his victory was the 22nd of his TMC career and tied him for fourth place on the all-time list with Joe Zeller.
The four-game series with the Lancers, now tied at 1-1, shifts to Reese Field on Saturday for a doubleheader that starts at noon.