The Master's College

Offensive Mojo Returns In Mustang Win

April 19, 2013

San Marcos, CA -- The Master's College baseball team's win over 11th-ranked Cal State San Marcos may not have done much to help the Mustangs in their pursuit of a conference title, but it did do one thing: it restored the club's offensive confidence after a run-challenged three-game sweep at the hands of Arizona Christian last weekend.

After being held to just seven runs against the Firestorm, the No. 9 Mustangs broke out the bats against the Cougars Friday afternoon, rapping out 12 hits in an 11-8 win that snapped a season-high three-game losing streak and improved the club's record to 33-14.

Meanwhile, in the chase for the GSAC's regular-season crown, the Mustangs got some help from San Diego Christian as they beat second-place Concordia, enabling the club to gain half a game on the Eagles and take a two-game lead.  Including a doubleheader at San Diego Christian tomorrow, the Eagles (19-12 GSAC) have five conference games remaining while the Mustangs (22-11 GSAC) finish up GSAC play next weekend with a three-game series against Westmont.

The Mustangs started quickly against the Cougars and never really let up, scoring in all but three innings.  With two outs in the top of the first, Spencer Downs (Kelso, WA) drew a walk, advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and scored easily on Cody Harris' triple to right center field.

However, Mustang ace A. J. Work got off to a rough start, giving up a pair of runs on three hits in the bottom of the frame to fall behind 2-1.

That deficit evaporated, though, in the top of the second when the Mustangs took advantage of two Cougar errors to knot the game at 2-2.  Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) reached on the first of those miscues and eventually scored on a Jon Popadics' fielders' choice.

After Work tossed a shutdown frame, the first of three in a row, his teammates went to work at the plate, scoring eight times over the next five innings to assure the lefthander of his ninth win (9-4) of the season.

They got a little help, once again, as a Cougar error in the top of the third plated both Joe Riddle (Bakersfield, CA) and Downs with the go-ahead runs.  They built on that 4-2 advantage two innings later, using the long ball to cap a big frame.  Shackelford's one-out single to left center field scored Downs, who had earned a leadoff walk, for a 5-2 lead and Chris Talley (Simi Valley, CA) followed with a three-run homer, his second of the year, over the left field fence.

The Cougars got one of those runs back in their half of the inning, benefitting from a Mustang error to cut the deficit to 8-3.

However, the Mustangs responded in quick fashion in the sixth when Downs drew another walk, this time with two outs, and raced home ahead of Harris' second three-bagger of the game, a shot to the gap in right-center field for a six-run lead.

That seemed to encourage Work as the senior closed out his six innings of work in style, retiring the Cougars in order before turning it over to the bullpen for the final three frames.

That strategy became a little dicey because the Cougars rallied in the final two innings but the Mustang offense came alive one more time before that to provide some much-needed cushion.

In the top of the eighth, Popadics singled up the middle with one out, stole second base, and scored on Steven Karkenny's (Chatsworth, CA) team-leading 48th rbi of the season, a base hit to center field.  The sophomore quickly swiped second and sped home on Harris' single up the middle, the junior's third rbi of the game.

Those two runs almost made the difference because the Cougars picked on the Mustang bullpen over the final two innings, tallying five runs before falling short when Harris induced a game-ending popout with two on in the last of the ninth.

Popadics and Harris led the Mustangs's 12-hit attack with three hits apiece while Shackelford added two more.  With the win, Work is now just one victory behind Chris Beck (28, 1991-94), the program's career wins leader.

The Mustangs and Cougars complete their weekend series on Saturday, playing a doubleheader that starts at noon.