Twice-Cut Oaks

Driven by two superb pitching performances and an offensive explosion, The Master’s College baseball team put its full arsenal on display in a doubleheader sweep of Menlo College in Atherton Friday afternoon.

Running their winning streak to nine games, the Mustangs (10-2) ran away from the Oaks in the opener, 14-2, and then outpitched the hosts 3-0 in the nightcap.

On a beautiful, sunny afternoon on the San Francisco peninsula, the Mustangs didn’t waste any time in the opener, erupting for four runs in their first at-bat.  Freshman Jonathan Popadics led off the first inning with a base hit to center field and then jogged home ahead of Leighton Tanner, who smoked his first home run of the season over the right field fence.

Steve Karkenny was hit by a pitch, moved to second base on a passed ball, advanced to third on a flyout, and scored on a Spencer Downs’ double to right field.  Downs didn’t spend very much time on second because designated hitter Joe Riddle drove him home moments later with a two-bagger of his own, capping the four-run outburst.

An inning later, the Mustangs made it 5-0 when Ryan Shackelford  led off with a single center, was balked to second base, and raced home on a Karkenny run-scoring single to left field.

The runfest continued in the third as the Mustangs strung together four hits to go up 6-0.  The key hit was a two-out single off Shackelford’s bat that plated courtesy runner Caleb Halvorson from third base.

While the offense was performing in high gear, senior righthander Charlie Gillies (3-1) was doing the same on the mound, blanking the Oaks on one hit through the first five frames.  After giving up a leadoff single in the first, Gillies retired the next 11 Oaks he faced, six of those by strikeout.

By the time he gave up a run in the sixth inning, the Mustangs had scored three more times, giving Gillies nine runs to work with.  Two of those runs came in the fifth after two were out.  Shackelford, who had started the frame with his third hit of the opener, was on second base with two gone when Karkenny’s single to left-center field brought him home.  A walk to Chris Talley moved Karkenny up 90 feet from where he scored on Downs’ second double of the game, giving the Mustangs a 9-0 lead.

After the Oaks dented the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth, neither team scored in seventh, which also capped Gillies’ afternoon on the hill.  In seven innings of work, he gave up just one run on two hits and struck out 10 batters.  He has now struck out a team-high 35 batters in 28.2 innings of pitching.

The Mustangs reached the 10-run mark for the third time this season in the top of the eighth when they parlayed a leadoff hit, a Menlo error, another single, and a Leighton two-out, bases-loaded walk into a 10-1 lead.

But, they had one more big inning left, duplicating their first-run outburst with a similar one in their final at-bat.  Stringing four hits together, including a two-run double off the bat of Spencer Toth, the Mustangs tallied four more runs to close out the first-game rout.  Cody Harris and Sam Robison added an rbi apiece with consecutive sacrifces to cap things off.

Six players had at least two hits apiece as the Mustangs rapped out a season-best 22 hits.  Shackelford, Riddle, and Downs led the way with three hits each while Karkenny, Popadics, and Leighton, who drove in a game-high three runs, had two hits apiece.

Needless to say, the nightcap was quite a bit different, at least at the plate.  Because on the mound junior A. J. Work was brilliant, blanking the Oaks on just five hits and striking out seven in a seven-inning, complete-game performance.

He retired the Oaks in order three times and closed out his third win (3-0) of the year with a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh.

Meanwhile, his teammates gave him all he really needed to work with when they scored twice in the top of the third.  Shackelford, who had quite an afternoon with six hits, led off the frame with the first of his three, second-game hits, a single to shallow left-center.  Moments later, he was joined on the bases by Popadics, whose single to right-center put two runners on board.  Then, Leighton stepped to the plate and whacked a two-run triple to deep left-center field, giving the Mustangs a 2-0 advantage.

Following two scoreless innings, the Mustangs scored the afternoon’s final run in the top of the sixth on one swing of the bat.  Leading off the inning, Karkenny slugged his first collegiate home run, a shot over the left field fence, closing out an afternoon in which he had four hits and drove in three runs.

The Mustangs finished with nine hits in the nightcap, Shackelford and Karkenny pacing the way with three and two hits, respectively.

The club is hoping for a repeat on Saturday when they play the Oaks in another twinbill before heading home.