A Split With Cougars
April 16, 2014
Santa Clarita, CA -- The importance of pitching was highlighted in both games of Wednesday's doubleheader with Cal State San Marcos.
The opener showcased a terrific performance by a starter regaining his confidence while the nightcap featured an uncharacteristic letdown by a usually reliable closer. It all added up to a split as The Master's College shut out the Cougars 5-0 in the first game while the visitors rallied back to win the nightcap 5-4.
The second-game loss was the first to a non-conference foe in 2014 and produced the Mustangs' eighth doubleheader split, leaving them 35-13 overall.
Tommy Kister (Saugus, CA) was simply outstanding in the opener. The senior righthander, who had dropped four consecutive decisions before gutting out a win over Arizona Christian last Saturday, went six strong innings, blanking the Cougars on just two hits and striking out four.
Kister didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning when the Cougars finally found a way to get on base with a single.
By that time, the Mustangs had given him a run to work with and it came in their first at-bat of the afternoon. Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) led off the first with a base hit through the left side, advanced to second when Jon Popadics (Boise, ID) drew a walk, moved to third on a Steve Karkenny (Chatsworth, CA) flyout, and scored on Ryan Shackelford's (Murrieta, CA) sacrifice fly to center field.
After Kister stranded a runner at second base in the fifth, the Mustangs did just the opposite in their half of the same frame when Josh Brown (Valencia, CA) whacked a clutch, two-out double down the right field line, scoring James Scott (Canyon Country, CA) from second base.
An inning later, the Mustangs made it 3-0 with another two-out hit. With one out, Popadics doubled to left-center field, swiped third base, and scored an out later on Shackelford's single up the middle.
That lead was a nice send-off for Kister, who was finished after six innings, and a welcoming cushion for reliever Conner Menez (Hollister, CA). The freshman righty followed superbly in Kister's footsteps, retiring all nine batters he faced over the final three frames to pick up a rare, three-inning save.
His teammates gave him even more to work with in the eighth, scoring two runs on back-to-back doubles from Popadics and Karkenny, and another two-out hit, this one a single by Tyler Krahn (Abbotsford, BC, Canada) that plated Karkenny for a 5-0 lead.
Eight Mustangs had at least one hit in the opener with Popadics producing two as the hosts outhit the Cougars 9-2.
The nightcap was a reversal of fortunes in more than one way. Benefitting from two, first-inning errors by the Mustangs, San Marcos scored two unearned runs off starter Andrew Klausmeier (Northridge, CA) to take a 2-0 lead.
In their first at-bat, the Mustangs capitalized on some shoddy defense, too, to halve the deficit. A three-base error by Cougar rightfielder Adam Tapia put Robison on third base from where he scored on a Popadics' groundout.
Two innings later, they vaulted in front 3-2, tying the game on a Joe Riddle (Bakersfield, CA) bases-loaded walk and then taking the lead on a Scott sacrifice fly to left field that plated Karkenny.
With Klausmeier keeping the Cougars off the scoreboard through the middle frames, that one-run lead looked solid and it got better when the Mustangs doubled the advantage with a single run in the fifth.
Shackelford led off the inning with a single to right field, raced all the way around to third base on a Cougar error, and scored on Matt Janes' (Riverside, CA) sacrifice fly to center field.
In the seven-inning nightcap, Klausmeier was done after the fifth, closing out a stint in which struck out four without giving up an earned run.
Mustang coach Monte Brooks, as he has done numerous times in 2014, turned the ball over to Karkenny, owner of six saves and in search of one more. The junior mowed down the Cougars in 1-2-3 fashion in the sixth, highlighted by a pair of inning-ending strikeouts.
Karkenny started the seventh inning well, inducing a groundout. However, from then on, it was all downhill as the Cougars caught up with the righthander, ripping him for three runs on six hits. When the smoke had cleared, the Cougars had a 5-4 lead.
The Mustangs didn't go quietly, though, in their final at-bat. Popadics led off with a bunt single and one out later trotted to second base on a Shackelford single. Following a Caleb Halverson (Temple City, CA) strikeout, both runners moved up 90 feet on a passed ball where they were stranded when Scott struck out to end the game.
Shackelford, who was 3-6 on the afternoon, was the lone Mustang with more than one hit in the nightcap, finishing with two of the club's five hits.
Now, the Mustangs take their longest break of the season, enjoying the Easter weekend off and most of next week before starting a regular-season-ending, three-game series at Westmont on April 25.
The club is still in the hunt for the GSAC regular-season championship, trailing first-place San Diego Christian, which beat Concordia earlier in the day, by two games. The Hawks have five conference games left.