April 5, 2014
Costa Mesa, CA -- Conner Menez twirled six shutout innings and his teammates made him a winner with three runs in the top of the seventh as The Master's College salvaged a doubleheader split with Vanguard, beating the Lions 3-1 in the nightcap after dropping a 5-3 decision in the opener.
The Mustangs' (30-12 overall, 18-12 GSAC) sixth split in GSAC play gave Vanguard the weekend series and dropped TMC 2 1/2 games behind surging first-place San Diego Christian (19-8 GSAC) which swept a weekend series from Arizona Christian.
Making the second start of his freshman campaign, Menez (Hollister, CA) gave the Mustangs what they needed after losing two straight to the Lions to start the weekend, going six strong innings, striking out seven and walking just two.
However, even that wasn't good enough to make the southpaw a winner right away. His Lion counterpart, Clayton Voechting, was just as stingy, keeping the Mustangs off the board through the first six frames. It would be up to Menez' teammates to break through against the Lion righthander and make him a winner for the second time.
They did so in the top of the seventh. Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) led off the inning with a single, stole second base, and raced to third when Jon Popadics (Boise, ID) beat out a bunt down the third-base line. Popadics swiped second and one out later Voechting intentionally walked Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) to load the bases in hopes of a possible inning-ending double play.
It never happened as Voechting walked John Brazil (Potter Valley, CA) to plate Robison with the game's first run. Tyler Krahn (Abbotsford, BC, Canada) followed with a single to left field that scored Popadics, and Andrew Klausmeier (Northridge, CA), making a rare start in center field, capped the three-run uprising with a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Shackelford for a 3-0 lead.
Menez (2-0) didn't get to complete the task because closer Steven Karkenny was called upon and the junior righthander, despite giving up a run on two hits, had just enough to preserve the victory while earning his sixth save of the season.
Prior to the adventurous seventh frame, both clubs had chances to score, leaving multiple runners on base several times, including in the sixth when the Mustangs left the bases loaded.
The opener was much different with all eight runs being produced in the first five innings.
Vanguard drew first blood in the second inning, sandwiching a leadoff single and a run-scoring groundout around a balk and another groundout to take a 1-0 lead off Mustang starter Tommy Kister (Saugus, CA).
That run stood up for half an inning as the Mustangs used a walk, an error, and two hits to vault in front 2-1 in the top of the third. Josh Swartz (Overland Park, KS) drew a one-out walk, moved to second base on a Robison single to left field, and kept going to third on a Lion error. Moments later, Swartz and Robison scored easily on a Popadics' double to left field.
That advantage lasted all of half an inning as the Lions took advantage of some uncharacteristic poor Mustang defense (a season-high five errors) and used the long ball to score three times for a 4-2 lead. A Popadics' error led directly to the tying run and then Taylor McKnight broke the tie with a two-run homer off Kister.
The Mustangs got one of those runs back in the top of the fourth, halving the deficit when Krahn laced a one-out single to left field, stole second base, advanced to third on a fielder's choice, and scored when Josh Brown (Valencia, CA) was caught in a rundown after being picked off first base.
The Master's never scored again, failing to get a runner into scoring position the rest of the way. The Lions, who chased Kister (3-4) after five innings, tacked on the game's final run in the fifth against the righthander, parlaying a pair of singles and a stolen base into a 5-3 lead.
Kister allowed eight hits and just three of the five runs he gave up were earned. Jason Karkenny (Chatsworth, CA) tossed the final three innings, allowing just one hit while striking out two.
The third-place Mustangs (half a game ahead of Concordia) now take some time off before welcoming Arizona Christian to Placerita Canyon next weekend for another key series. Friday's game will begin at 3:00pm on Reese Field. The Mustangs took two out of three from the Firestorm in Phoenix in late February.