Splitting The Oaks

Although it didn’t get the four-game sweep it wanted, The Master’s College baseball completed a successful weekend in the Bay Area, splitting a doubleheader with Menlo College on Saturday and taking three of four overall from the Oaks in a little more than 24 hours.

Winning their 10th straight game, the Mustangs (11-3) beat up on the Oaks 9-2 in the opener and then had their unbeaten streak snapped in the nightcap when Menlo won 8-4.

In the opener, the Mustangs drew first blood in the top of the first when Jonathan Popadics lined a lead –off single down the left field line, stole second base, advanced to third on an Oak error and scored on Steven Karkenny’s rbi groundout.

But, the Oaks equaled that and went one better in the bottom of the same frame, roughing up Mustang starter James Scott for two runs, using three hits and an error to take a 2-1 lead.

That was the extent of run production for both clubs over the next five innings as Scott and his Menlo counterpart Derek Rodrigues each threw five consecutive scoreless innings.  In that span, Scott allowed just one hit and whiffed four Oaks.

Rodrigues was nearly as effective, giving up just three hits in that stretch but then it all fell apart for him in the seventh inning when the Mustangs parlayed three hits and an error into two runs and a 3-2 lead.

Karkenny led off the inning with a base hit to center field, raced to third on a Chris Talley single, and scored the tying run on Joe Riddle’s hit to shallow right field.  Talley, who reached third on Riddle’s single, scored the go-ahead run moments later on Spencer Downs’ fielders’ choice.

Those runs came in the nick of time to make Scott (3-0) a winner because the sophomore righthander threw his last pitch in the bottom of the sixth.  Although not as dominant as his teammates’ Friday pitching performances were, Scott was effective in those six innings, allowing just two runs on four hits while striking out five.

It also gave fellow sophomore Tommy Kister an opportunity to pitch and the righthander took advantage of it, tossing three strong innings of shutout ball in which he struck out four Oaks and gave up just one hit to notch his first save of the season.  In five appearances, Kister has not given up an earned in 11 innings of work.

His teammates made sure his save opportunity wasn’t going to be as challenging as it appeared to be, too, when they exploded for six runs in the top of the ninth.  They did it with six hits, including a pair of doubles.  Downs, Cody Harris, and Ryan Shackelford all singled in runs, Tanner Leighton doubled in a pair, and Karkenny’s run-scoring, two-bagger capped off the outburst.

Karkenny’s three hits paced the club’s 14-hit attack while Popadics, Talley, and Shackelford had two apiece.  Leighton drove in three runs and Downs added two rbi.

In the nightcap, the Mustangs managed just four hits and along with an ineffective pitching performance and watched their winning skein come to an end.

The downfall started in the bottom of the first inning when the Oaks got to Mustang starter Daniel Sheaffer for three runs on one big hit, a bases-clearing triple off the bat of Scott Dreier.

That 3-0 margin held up through the first three frames as Menlo starter Tristan Heckerl blanked the Mustangs on two hits.

However, in the top of the fourth, the Mustangs broke through against Heckerl, slicing the deficit to one run with two, two-out runs.  The first run was produced by a Riddle double that scored Karkenny and the second came when Heckerl balked Riddle home.

But, unlike the first three games of the series, the Oaks responded quickly, scoring three times in the bottom of the same inning and going up 6-2.  That proved to be the undoing of Sheaffer (1-1) who wound up giving up six earned runs on five hits through those four innings.

Knowing what their offense was capable of doing, the Mustangs were anything but dead.  They showed additional life in the top of the fifth when they halved the deficit, closing to 6-4 with two more runs. 

Shackelford worked a leadoff walk to start the frame and moved up 90 feet on a walk to Popadics.  A Leighton groundout moved both runners up a base from where they scored on Karkenny’s one-out, two-run single.  Karkenny swiped second base but died there when Talley struck out and Riddle grounded out.

Unfortunately, the Mustang bullpen couldn’t produce a shutdown inning as it gave up two more runs in the last of the fifth for the final score.  The Mustangs threatened one more time when they put two on in the seventh and final frame but Talley’s groundout ended the game.

Riddle paced the Mustangs with two hits.

With 14 non-conference games under their belts, the Mustangs now turn their attention to GSAC play which opens on Thursday with what else, a doubleheader at Pt. Loma Nazarene.  The two squads will play another twinbill on Saturday on Reese Field.