Payback Is Sweet
A day after watching Azusa Pacific rally for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a win, The Master's College figured turnabout was fair play as they erupted for six runs in the top of the ninth to blow past the Cougars 8-3 Thursday evening in the San Gabriel Valley.
The dramatic comeback evened the clubs' four-game series at a game apiece and pushed the Mustangs a game over .500 (21-20) and to 12-16 in GSAC play.
Through the first eight innings there was little indication of what was about to happen as the Mustangs managed two runs on seven hits off a pair of Cougar hurlers. They had tallied single runs in the third and seventh innings, respectively, but had also been frustrated in leaving nine runners on base.
But, that all changed abruptly in the ninth as the Mustangs sent 10 batters to the plate, lacing out five hits along the way. It started with a Cody Harris infield hit, was followed by Tanner Leighton's single up the middle, and when Parker Price reached on a bunt single, the bases were filled with Mustangs.
Spencer Downs, who was one of the day's offensive heroes with a 3-4, two-rbi performance, was then plunked by a pitch to force in Harris with the tying run. Moments later, J. T. Adams earned a walk, bringing in Leighton with what turned out to be the winning run. But, the Mustangs weren't finished by a long shot.
Unfazed by a pitching change, Chris Talley greeted reliever Ben Ruder with a two-run single up the middle, plating Downs and Price for a 6-3 lead. Ben Ives moved Adams and Talley up 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt, putting them in prime position to score on Bryan Mitchell's two-run base hit to center field, capping off the rally.
Fittingly, Harris (1-1), who ignited the inning at the plate, gained the victory on the mound. After making the final out of the ninth, he picked up his glove, went back to the hill for his second inning of relief and retired the Cougars in order.
Earlier, the Mustangs capitalized on a Cougar miscue to go up 1-0 in the third. Downs, who had led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, and raced home on a throwing error by the Cougar shortstop.
But, the Cougars evened things up two innings later. To that point, Mustang starter Tyler Bersano had blanked APU, limiting the Cougars to just two hits. However, in the bottom of the fifth, the hosts sandwiched a pair of singles around a wild pitch and a groundout to tie the game.
Then, an inning later, they unlocked the tie, using an Alex Ring homer and a Brent Warren rbi single to go up 3-1.
The Mustangs got one of those runs back in the top of the seventh. Price drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and scored on Downs' single up the middle.
Although he didn't benefit from his club's late-inning heroics, Bersano was solid through seven innings of work. He struck out four and gave up three runs.
Downs' three-hit day led the club's 12-hit attack and Harris added two more hits.
With the series tied at 1-1, the clubs will move to the Santa Clarita Valley on Saturday to wrap things up with a doubleheader. The first game is slated to start at noon on Reese Field.