Azusa Pacific's Brent Warren singled in the winning run with two outs as the Cougars rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to clip The Master's College 9-8 Wednesday evening in Azusa.
The agonizing defeat dropped the Mustangs back to the .500 mark (20-20) overall and 11-16 in the GSAC. With a little over two weeks left in the regular season, the Mustangs are sitting in eighth place, three games behind Concordia which holds down the sixth and final playoff spot.
This was a particularly galling loss for the Mustangs who led 7-3 as late as the seventh inning before the Cougars rallied for five runs over the final three runs.
Four of those seven runs came in the top of the third when the Mustangs strung together five hits. Cody Harris opened the frame with a single to center field. Moments later, he raced to third on a Tanner Leighton double down the right field line and scored on a Parker Price two-bagger to center field.
Leighton wasn't able to score on that two-base hit but he and Price had no problem crossing the plate on Spencer Downs' two-run double to the gap in left center for a 3-0 lead. J. T. Adams followed with a single, the Mustangs' fifth straight hit of the inning, moving Downs to third from where he score when Chris Talley grounded into a double play.
But, that four-run cushion was all but erased in the bottom of the inning when the Cougars parlayed three hits off Mustang starter Charlie Gillies and a pair of TMC errors into three runs, slicing the deficit to 4-3.
However, the Mustangs wasted no time responding, racking up four more hits and scoring twice more in the top of the fourth to double their advantage. Joe Riddle led off with an infield single and rambled to third on a Bryan Lucas double to right center field. Harris stepped to the plate and promptly whacked a two-run single to center field, giving the Mustangs a 6-3 lead.
After getting through that wobbly third inning, Gillies really settled down, blanking the Cougars over the next frames to give himself a chance at a team-high sixth win. His teammates gave him some more breathing room in the top of the sixth, going up 7-3 when Price singled in courtesy runner James Sloan who was running for Lucas.
Gillies' scoreless string came to an end, though, in the bottom of the seventh when the Cougars used three singles to tally a pair runs, cutting the deficit to 7-5. That was it for the junior righthander as closer James Scott took over in the eighth, seeking to nail down the win with his sixth save.
He got the job done in the eighth, getting two big outs on a double play and then closing out the frame with a strikeout. But, it was a different story an inning later as the Cougars rallied for the win. An infield single brought the Cougars to within one run, a bases-loaded walk forced in the tying run, and Warren ended it with a base hit through the right side. Scott (2-1) suffered his first collegiate loss.
Nine of the Mustangs' 13 hits came from their first four batters, including three by Price. Leighton, Downs, Adams, and Harris had two apiece.
The Mustangs will have a chance at quick payback when they return to Azusa on Thursday to take on the Cougars.