April 21, 2017
COSTA MESA, Calif. -- This is the time of the year Michael Sexton plays for.
The Mustang senior third baseman, who transferred to TMU last year after playing on Lewis-Clark State's (Idaho) national championship squad in 2015 and helped the Mustangs reach last year's NAIA World Series, wants to play on the big stage one more time before he hangs up the college spikes for good.
He took one step in that direction Friday afternoon when he homered and drove in six runs to back Robert Winslow's innings-eating performance in an 11-6 victory over first-place Vanguard.
The victory for the GSAC's hottest team (six straight conference wins and eight in a row overall) pulled the Mustangs (14-11 GSAC, 26-18 overall) within two games of first-place Biola and Vanguard with five games left in conference play.
Sexton and his teammates went to work in the top of the third inning, posting four runs to snap a scoreless tie. Max Maitland ignited the offensive outburst with a rbi single through the right side that plated Moises Garcia, who had walked to lead off the frame. One out later, Sexton produced the first of his half-dozen rbi, singling to right field to score Maitland. Then David Sheaffer stepped to the plate and delivered a clutch, two-out double to left-center field that brought home Sexton and Aaron Shackelford for a 4-0 lead.
That advantage proved to be quite safe with the way Robert Winslow was dealing. The sophomore righthander blanked the Lions through the first four frames, limiting the hosts to one hit in that span. Battling some uncharacteristic wildness (two walks and a hit batsman), he stranded a couple of runners in the second inning and one each in the third and fourth.
However, in the fifth, the Lions took advantage of Winslow's command issues, turning a leadoff walk into a run. He limited the damage, though, getting an inning-ending strikeout that left two more Lions on base.
Wasting no time in answering, the Mustangs, sparked by Sexton, scored three times in the top of the sixth with two outs. Maitland kept the inning alive with a walk and Jonah Jarrard singled him to second base. Moments later, they both jogged home after Sexton slugged a three-run homer, his seventh of the year that made it a 7-1 game.
Winslow followed with two big shutdown frames and then the Mustangs put the game away with another four-run assault, this one in the top of the eighth and Sexton was in the middle of it again.
Sandwiching a Matt Janes' walk and a Jarrard hit-by-pitch around a Maitland single, the Mustangs loaded the bases. They didn't stay jammed for long as a Sexton fielder's choice scored courtesy runner Luke Halverson and Maitland for a 9-1 cushion. The lead ballooned to 11-1 on a Shackelford rbi groundout and a Sheaffer sacrifice fly that capped the scoring.
Winslow tired in the eighth inning and the Lions scored twice against him in his final frame of work. They added three more runs in their final at-bat, but by that time those were incidental.
Going at least eight innings for the third time in 2017, Winslow (6-5) allowed five hits, survived six walks, and struck out four.
At the plate, the Mustangs did all their damage on just seven hits. Sexton had two of those as did Maitland.
Following the game, head coach Monte Brooks was impressed by his team's performance, saying, "Vanguard can be a tough place to score runs, yet we put some quality at-bats together."
With a first-game win under their belts, the Mustangs now point to Saturday when they have the chance to draw ever closer in the race for a regular-season crown, playing a doubleheader against Vanguard.