Starting Fast, Then Holding On

March 6, 2015

Santa Clarita, Calif. -- The Master's College used a familiar strategy to beat Vanguard Friday afternoon on Reese Field.

Bolting to a quick lead with a four-run first inning and then turning to Steve Karkenny (Chatsworth, CA) late, the 20th-ranked Mustangs beat the Lions 7-5 in the first of a three-game series, winning their third straight in the process and improving to 20-5 overall and 15-4 in the GSAC where they drew within one game of first-place Concordia, a loser to Westmont earlier in the day.

Scoring first, as has become habit this year, the Mustangs sandwiched run-scoring singles around a sacrifice fly to take a 4-0 lead.  Tyler Krahn (Abbotsford, BC, Canada) led off the frame with a single, moved to second base when Karkenny drew a walk, and then was on the front end of a double steal.  Moments later, Nick Covello (Skillman, NJ) made that aggressiveness pay off with a two-run single.

Collin Nyenhuis (Vista, CA) followed with a double to right-center field that put runners at second and third in advance of Sam Robison's (San Juan Capistrano, CA) sacrifice fly, plating Covello with the inning's third run.  Nyenhuis moved to third base on the flyout and then scored on Josh Brown's (Valencia, CA) two-out single up the middle for a 4-0 lead.

With Jason Karkenny returning to form after a rough outing last weekend, that margin appeared very safe and when the Mustangs added a single run in the third on a Brown sacrifice fly, he had a 5-0 lead to work with.

By no means perfect, Karkenny was flat-out gritty, surrendering just two hits through the initial five innings, overcoming three walks and two hit batsmen, and getting out of jams in the second and fourth, stranding two Lions in each of those frames.

The Lions finally got to the sophomore righthander in the sixth, sandwiching two singles around a walk to slice a run off the deficit.  That proved to be Karkenny's last inning and he would improve to 5-2, although that would only be assured with some help from his brother.

The Mustangs appeared to make the win a little simpler in the seventh, scoring twice more when David Sheaffer (Mt. Airy, NC) tripled in Ethan Stine (Victorville, CA), who was running for Nyenhuis, and Robison brought in Sheaffer with a run-scoring single to right field.

Armed with a 7-1 lead entering the eighth, everything pointed to an easy win when the wheels started to come off.  The Lions picked on Aaron Alexander (Concord, CA) in his second inning of relief, scoring four runs on four hits and drawing within 7-5, before chasing him and forcing Mustang coach Monte Brooks to bring in Steve Karkenny who threw a run-scoring wild pitch and then struck out Justin Vega to limit the damage.

It was much less dramatic in the ninth although the Lions got the potential tying run to the plate before Karkenny induced a game-ending groundout.  Karkenny struck out three and earned his GSAC-leading seventh save.

Nyenhuis paced the Mustangs' nine-hit attack with a 3-3 performance while Krahn added two hits.

The two clubs face each other again on Saturday in a doubleheader that starts at 11:00am on Reese Field.