January 31, 2017
Santa Clarita, Calif. -- Over the past few years TMU baseball has showcased one of the most mistake-free defenses in the country.
The Mustangs led the NAIA in fielding defense in 2014 and 2015, and finished third last year. It's been the third necessary component for a squad that has advanced to the NAIA National Tournament each of the past four seasons.
Tuesday afternoon at Lou Herwaldt Stadium that defense was missing as TMU committed five errors and surrendered six unearned runs in a stunning 7-3 loss to Bethesda. The defeat was the first of the young season for the 11th-ranked Mustangs (3-1).
Strong pitching prevailed throughout most of the game, displayed prominently by zeroes on the scoreboard through the first four frames. Not even an error by Aaron Shackelford in the third could tarnish a strong outing by Mustang starter Danny Lutz. The senior righthander shrugged off that mistake and finished his four-inning stint with a one-hitter and two strikeouts.
An inning later, reliever Robert Winslow (0-1) wasn't so fortunate after his error eventually opened the floodgates to three unearned runs as Bethesda's Brady Hochhalter cleared the bases with a two-out, three-run double.
In the seventh, three more miscues (two by third baseman Matt Janes and another by Shackelford) led to another trio of unearned runs as the Flames extended their lead to 7-0.
Through the first six frames, the Mustang bats had been quieted by Bethesda arms, managing just three hits in that span. However, in the seventh the offense woke up when Scott Savage and Max Maitland worked walks and then scored on Shackelford's triple.
Following a quiet eighth inning, the Mustangs produced more offense in the ninth and threatened to get back in the game. Savage led off with a single and sprinted to third base on an error by Bethesda rightfielder Kevin Maxey. Moments later, Pearson Good plated Savage with a single to right field. After a fielder's choice and a strikeout, Michael Sexton singled up the middle to put two runners aboard. However, the threat and the game came to an end when David Sheaffer struck out.
The Mustangs managed just seven hits with Shackelford leading the way with one of those and two rbi.
After opening the season with four straight home games, the Mustangs go on the road this weekend, traveling to Phoenix to participate in the 4-Him Tournament. The club plays Benedictine (Ariz.) and Colorado Christian on Friday at 2:30pm and 6:00pm, respectively, and then finishes up Saturday against the University of Mary (ND) at 8:30am.