A Quirky Split

April 2nd, 2012

Box Score

SANTA CLARITA, Calif -- Sixteen days after a regularly-scheduled doubleheader was postponed due to inclement weather, The Master’s College finally completed the twinbill Monday afternoon, beating No. 5 Azusa Pacific 5-3 in Placerita Canyon.

The win gave the Mustangs (24-14, 13-11 GSAC) a split with the Cougars after the visitors had won the “first game” on March 19 following the rainout two days prior.  It also salvaged the season series with the Cougars who had taken the first three games.

Although the Mustangs led from start to finish, it took a resilient pitching performance from three hurlers and some key hits to produce the win.

The mound work was a combined effort led by starter James Scott (5-4) who snapped a three-game losing skein with four innings of gutsy work.  That became evident quickly when the sophomore righthander emerged from a first-inning, bases-loaded jam unscathed after hitting a batter, surrendering a single and walking another Cougar.

He settled down over the next three frames and when he departed after four innings, just enough to gain a win in the seven-inning contest, his teammates had given him four runs to work with.

Two of those tallies came in the bottom of the second inning when the Mustangs parlayed two hits, an error, a passed ball, and a balk into a 2-0 advantage.  Leading off the frame, Joe Riddle reached on a Cougar miscue and then advanced to second on a balk by Cougar starter Colby Gurney.  He moved to third on Bryan Lucas’ base hit and scored on Caleb Halvorson’s fielder’s choice groundout.

Halvorson moved up 90 feet on a passed ball and then raced home on Spencer Downs’ line single to right-center field, giving the Mustangs a 2-0 edge.

They made it 3-0 an inning later when Jonathan Popadics led off with a double to left-center, advanced to third on Tanner Leighton’s sacrifice bunt, and trotted home on Steven Karkenny’s one-out sacrifice fly to  right field.

The Mustangs added to the lead in the bottom of the fourth without the benefit of a hit.  But, with the Cougars committing two of their four errors, hitting a Mustang batter, and walking another, the hosts didn’t really need to do much themselves.

Lucas, leading off the frame, was the batter who got plunked.  Moments later, he wound up at third base when a pickoff attempt by Cougar reliever Jesus Del Rosario went awry.  One out later, Lucas crossed home plate when the next Cougar reliever, Jason Plowman, also threw the ball away on a botched pickoff attempt.

That run turned out to be huge as the Cougars took out some of their frustrations on reliever Tommy Kister in the top of the fifth.  The sophomore righthander walked the leadoff man but then got the next two batters and was on the verge of getting out of the inning.  But, he walked another Cougar and Jonathan Erb made him pay, swatting a three-run homer over the right-center field fence, closing the deficit to one run.  A subsequent triple put the Cougars 90 feet away from tying the game but Kister induced an inning-ending groundout.

Responding in an impressive way, the Mustangs got one of those runs back in the bottom of the frame.  Leighton led off with a single through the left side, moved to second base on Sam Robison’s sacrifice bunt, and raced home on Karkenny’s single to right field.

Buoyed by that support, Kister tossed a shutdown sixth and then handed the ball to A. J. Work for the seventh and final inning.  Making his first relief appearance of the season, the sophomore lefthander answered the bell as he has all year as a starter, allowing one hit but getting three outs to preserve the victory.

After playing their last 24 games in conference play, the Mustangs take a break from GSAC action the rest of the week as they host La Sierra and Cal State San Marcos in doubleheaders on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.  The twinbill against La Sierra on Tuesday is slated for a 12:30pm start.