May 1, 2012
Photo credit courtesy of Tony Berru
AZUSA, Calif -- The Master’s College scored four runs in the eighth inning and reliever Tommy Kister notched three dramatic outs in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the Mustangs’ white-knuckle, 9-8 win over third-seeded Biola Tuesday evening on the first day of the GSAC Tournament at Azusa Pacific University.
The first-round victory improved the fourth-seeded Mustangs’ record to 34-19 and moved them into the winners’ bracket of the conference tourney where they will face second-seeded Concordia tomorrow evening.
Kister’s heroic save, his team-high fourth of the year, came after he took over for an embattled A. J. Work who had surrendered a two-run homer with no outs, allowing the Eagles to pull within 9-8. He didn’t make it easy on himself, either. He promptly walked the first batter he faced but then sandwiched a pair of outs around a wild pitch. He then intentionally walked another Eagle before getting the final out on a fly ball to centerfielder Tanner Leighton.
The win was a remarkable one by the Mustangs who watched the Eagles tally the first four runs of the game before scoring nine unanswered runs themselves and then holding on for the win.
Just as remarkable was the way in which the Eagles roughed up Work. The All-GSAC southpaw who came in with a sparkling 2.00 ERA and a 10-2 record surrendered all eight Biola runs (seven earned) on 11 hits.
Four of those runs came in the first three frames when the Eagles parlayed six hits, including two home runs, and a Mustang error into a 4-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs couldn’t return the favor against Biola starter Chris Baek in the same span. But, in the fourth, the club finally broke through when Chris Talley swatted his team-leading ninth home run of the season, a leadoff solo shot over the left field fence.
An inning later, the Mustangs utilized the same long-ball formula to draw within 4-3. With one out in the fifth, Leighton walked and then trotted home ahead of Steven Karkenny’s home run to left field, his fourth roundtripper of the year.
Another long ball, this one off the bat of Bryan Lucas, tied the game in the top of the sixth. It was the All-GSAC catcher’s ninth homer of the year, tying Talley for club-high honors.
The scoring trend continued in the top of the seventh when the Mustangs scored another run to snap the deadlock. It appeared that Leighton got things going with a leadoff single to right field but he was promptly gunned down trying to swipe second base. After Karkenny struck out, Spencer Downs laced a two-out triple down the right field line and then raced home with the tie-breaking run on a wild pitch.
All of this scoring happened as Work got his act together. After stumbling through the first three innings, he blanked the Eagles over the next four frames, setting himself up for a win.
That became even more realistic after he shut down the Eagles in the bottom of the seventh and his teammates rewarded him with four more runs to work with, going ahead 9-4 in the top of the eighth.
They did so by rapping out four hits in the frame and capitalizing on two Biola errors that translated into four
unearned runs. Caleb Halvorson, running for Lucas, who had led off the inning with a single, scored the inning’s first run after an error. Karkenny, Downs, and Talley followed with run-scoring base
hits, giving the Mustangs a five-run cushion.
It was just enough. The Eagles got to Work again in the eighth, drawing to within 9-6 on an rbi double and a run-scoring single. He survived that frame, but not the ninth.
Work walked the first batter he faced in the ninth and then gave up the two-run homer to Benji Sutherland before Kister came to the rescue.
Now, the Mustangs must turn around on Tuesday and face second-seeded and defending national champion Concordia in a game that starts at 5:30pm.