Left On With Nowhere To Go
North Greenville's Taylor Hollifield slammed a solo home run in the fifth inning and the defending national champion Crusaders went on to eliminate The Master's College from the NCCAA World Series with a 3-2 win Thursday evening in Mason, Ohio.
Making their first appearance in the national event, the Mustangs went 2-2 and finished 27-27 overall.
Trying to win their pool and advance to the best-of-three championship series, the Mustangs didn't start well against a formidable Crusader squad intent on defending its 2010 title.
The Crusaders jumped on Mustang hurler Daniel Sheaffer in the bottom of the first when Derek Fulmer cracked a two-run double to the gap in the left-center field for a 2-0 lead.
That margin barely held up over the first three frames as Crusader starter Michael Benjamin stranded Mustangs at the corners in the first inning and then left the bases loaded an inning later.
The Mustangs, who outhit the Crusaders 9-3, finally broke through in the top of the fourth but it wasn't a hit that produced the run that halved the deficit.
Ben Ives led off the frame with a single to center field but was forced at second base on a Bryan Lucas fielder's choice. Matt Johnson drew a walk to put two runners aboard but Ryan Shackelford flew out for the second out. Tanner Leighton kept the inning alive with another walk to load the bases and moments later courtesy runner James Sloan scored on a passed ball.
But, Parker Price grounded out to end the inning, leaving two more Mustangs on the bases. Through the first four innings, the club left seven runners on base and would eventually leave 11 on board.
However, the Mustangs kept persevering and in the top of the fifth, they tied it up. Spencer Downs and Chris Talley opened the frame with consecutive singles and an error moved courtesy runner Sloan and Talley up 90 feet. Cody Harris followed with a run-scoring fielder's choice that plated Sloan but another courtesy runner, Spencer Toth, was tagged out in a rundown. With Harris, the go-ahead run, sitting at a second base, the Mustangs didn't get that much-needed big hit as Ives and Lucas both flew out to end the inning.
That inability came back to haunt the Mustangs in the bottom of the inning when Hollifield picked on a Sheaffer pitch and drove it over the fence in left field, moving the Crusaders in front to stay.
The Mustangs almost answered that in top of the sixth, putting two more runners on base, but a strikeout ended another promising threat.
Sheaffer, who gave up just three hits in 4.1 innings of work, took the loss and finished the season 0-2.
Downs, Talley, and Shackelford had two hits apiece.