SANTA CLARITA, Calif – On a beautiful sun-drenched afternoon, a non-conference showdown between two NAIA Top 25 squads did not disappoint the fans who had the good fortune to soak in a perfect day for college baseball. Cal State San Marcos entered today’s twinbill having won nine of their last eleven games while the host Mustangs had won five in a row and six of their last seven contests.
The first two innings were controlled by both starting pitchers as it took just 14 minutes for the first 12 outs of the game to be recorded. The Mustangs (27-14) broke through in the third inning when freshman Jonathan Popadics (Boise, ID) led off the inning with a hit followed by senior Tanner Leighton (Meridian, ID) duplicating the effort. After a failed sacrifice bunt attempt with Popadics being retired on a fielder’s choice at third base, sophomore Joe Riddle (Bakersfield) plated Leighton with an RBI single to center field.
The game remained uneventful until the top of the fifth when junior starter Zack Anderson (Boise, ID) plunked the Cougars lead-off man, Kenny Belzer. After retiring the next two batters, Anderson proceeded to walk the next three Cougars to plate Belzer and even the score at 1-1. Anthony Renteria then made the Mustang starter pay for all the free passes as he blasted a grand slam to put the visitors up 5-1.
The Master’s immediately responded in the home half of the fifth, getting two runs back on rbi by Leighton and freshman Steve Karkenny (Chatsworth). The sixth inning would yield the same result as senior Bryan Lucas (Newhall) led off the inning with a home run and junior Chris Talley (Simi Valley) doubled and later scored on a wild pitch to even the score at 5.
The Mustangs scored the go-ahead run in the seventh when Riddle led off with a walk and then scored from first with two outs on an rbi double from Lucas. The home team added an insurance run and another two-out rbi when freshman Sam Robison’s single to center allowed Jonathan Popadics to dive head first into home plate, just beating the tag of Cougar catcher, Mark Ortivez.
Senior pitcher Charlie Gillies (Castaic) pitched two and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief, striking out five to pick up the victory and extend his record to 7-4 on the season.
In game two of Thursday’s twinbill, the Mustangs narrowly escaped a split against the Cougars.
The Mustangs got on the board first in the second inning as Karkenny crossed home plate on a Lucas popout to second base. Immediately after that, Chris Talley (Simi Valley, CA) followed up with a two-run homer, driving in Spencer Downs from third base.
With a quick reach by Spencer Downs on a fielder's choice, Leighton added to the Mustangs lead in the third, putting the club up 4-0.
However, the visiting Cougars answered back as Austin Coleman drilled a two-run homer to left field giving himself and Anthony Renteri the first score of the Cougars' second showing. With the scoreboard showing 4-2 at the end of the fourth inning, both teams remained quiet until the fifth when the Mustangs doubled their run production.
The rally was capped when Lucas rocketed a grand slam to right field, scoring Karkenny, Riddle, and Robison to put the Mustangs up 8-2.
But the Cougars wouldn't go home without a fight.
After scoring just one run in the sixth, CSUSM gave the Mustangs a scare in the top of seventh. Taking over for Mustang starter A.J. Work, James Scott took the mound as the Cougars began a late-inning rally in an effort to salvage a split. Trent Jemmett homered to right center, driving home Kyle Secciani. With the score at 8-5, Coleman homered to left center, cutting the Mustang lead to one.
But in dramatic fashion, spectacular defense on the part of the Mustangs caught CSUSM’s Jeremy Baum stealing second which put the game on ice. The Mustangs, who were outhit 11-6 in the nightcap, finished off the sweep with an 8-7 win, extending their overall record to 28-14.
TMC will return to the diamond on Friday, April 13 when they host a twinbill against GSAC rival Vanguard University. Game time is set for 12:00 pm in Placerita Canyon.