March 10, 2017
Santa Barbara, Calif. -- It was just a matter of time, or so it seemed before The Master's University baseball team got its offense cranked up.
Through the first quarter of the 2017 campaign, the club was hitting an anemic .218. However, in the past dozen games, the Mustangs have hit at a .293 clip and have gone 9-3.
That upward trend continued on Friday in timely fashion as the Mustangs rapped out 12 hits in a 10-4 beating of Westmont in the first of a three-game GSAC series in on the Central Coast. Winners of four in a row and eight of their past nine, the Mustangs are 14-11 overall and tied with Biola in fourth place at 5-5 in conference play.
Spearheading the offensive resurgence have been sophomore Aaron Shackelford and catcher/designated hitter Jonah Jarrard. Shackelford, who's batting .322, went to work quickly in the top of the first, drawing a one-out walk and racing to third on a Jarrard single before scoring on the front end of a double steal for a 1-0 lead.
Two innings later, Shackelford increased the Mustang advantage to 3-0 when he swatted a two-run homer down the right field line. His team-leading seventh roundtripper of the season plated Max Maitland, who had rapped a lead-off single to right field.
The Warriors got one of those runs back in the last half of the third inning, using a single, a stolen base, a groundout, and a sacrifice fly to make it a 3-1 game.
The Mustangs answered quickly and decisively in the top of the fourth, scoring four times to move ahead 7-1. The first three batters in the inning reached on base hits. Pearson Good, who led off with a single to right-center field, eventually scored on a wild pitch. Matt Janes, who followed Good with a base hit to left field, scored on a Shackelford run-scoring groundout, Maitland scored on a Jarrard double, and Michael Sexton capped the frame with a single that scored courtesy runner Ethan Brandt.
Westmont chipped away at starter Jason Karkenny and the deficit, scoring single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to close within 7-3.
However, in the top of the sixth, Shackelford almost single-handedly made it an 8-3 game. He worked a leadoff walk, moved to second base on a passed ball, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored one out later on another passed ball.
Karkenny then produced two big shutdown frames to keep the lurking Warriors from drawing any closer.
His teammates gave him two final runs to work with. In the top of the seventh, Shackelford drove in his fourth run of the game, singling in Danny Lutz, who had walked to lead off and was on third after Janes singled to right-center.
In the eighth, the Mustangs extended their lead to 10-3 with one swing of the bat when Michael Sexton hit a lead-off home run, his third of the year.
The Warriors got to Karkenny one more time in the last of the eighth, however, the senior righthander had enough left in the tank to make it through the frame as he improved to 4-1. It was the second time he has gone eight innings this year despite giving up nine hits and walking four.
Shackelford keyed the offense in a big way, going 2-3 with four rbi, scoring twice and walking three times. Maitland, Jarrard, Sexton (two rbi), and Janes had two hits apiece.
The Mustangs and Warriors go at it again on Saturday in a doubleheader that starts at 11:00am.