May 3rd, 2012

Box Score:

AZUSA, Calif.-- As it had in each previous game of the GSAC Tournament, The Master’s College baseball team fell behind in its third-round game against Westmont Thursday afternoon at Azusa Pacific.  And, for the second day in a row, they couldn’t come back, falling to the Warriors 7-4.

The loss knocked the Mustangs (34-21) out of the double-elimination tournament and ended their season for the time being.  There is the possibility that the club could still earn a berth in the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round, May 10-14.

However, Thursday afternoon’s performance against the Warriors puts that prospect in doubt.  The sixth-seeded Warriors jumped on Mustang starter Zack Anderson for two runs in the first inning, parlaying three singles and an error into a 2-0 lead.

It remained a two-run game through the fourth inning because Anderson just barely kept the Warriors at bay while his counterpart, Mitch Crocker, silenced the Mustang bats in that span, retiring 10 batters in a row during one stretch.

Daniel Sheaffer replaced Anderson (0-2) in the fifth and was treated harshly, giving up three hits, including a two-run homer off the bat of Coby Cress that lengthened the Warrior advantage to 4-0.

Crocker produced another shutdown frame in the bottom of the inning but in the sixth the Mustangs finally broke through.  Picking on the Warrior starter for three hits and taking advantage of a Westmont error, the Mustangs tallied three runs, snapping a skein of 15 consecutive scoreless innings going back to Tuesday night’s win over Biola.

Jonathan Popadics led off the frame with an infield single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Tanner Leighton’s single to center field.  Leighton, who raced to second base on the throw to the plate, moved to third on Steven Karkenny’s flyout to center field and kept on going to the plate when Westmont David Gabel misplayed the throw.

Joe Riddle followed with a walk and sped to third on Chris Talley’s double down the left field line.  Moments later, Riddle scored on Spencer Downs’ sacrifice fly, pulling the Mustangs to within 4-3.

Any momentum gained from that rally was slowed down by a scoreless seventh and then stopped in its tracks in the eighth when the Warriors added some insurance, nicking Sheaffer and fellow reliever Tommy Kister for three runs on a like number of hits.

That proved to be more than enough as Crocker, though giving up an eighth-inning home run to Karkenny, his fifth of the year, completed his distance-going effort in style, retiring the Mustangs in order in the bottom of the ninth.

For the second day in a row, the Mustangs were held to just six hits with no one in the lineup collecting more than one.