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Splitting Time In Phoenix

Out on the road for the first time this season, The Master’s College baseball team split a doubleheader with Arizona Christian University Friday afternoon in Phoenix, rallying past the Eagles 11-6 in the opener before dropping the nightcap 8-3.

Boasting a new name, the Eagles (formerly Southwestern College) celebrated early by tagging Mustang starter J. T. Adams for a run in the first and two more in the second.

But, the Eagles played free and easy with the ball in the third inning and the Mustangs made them pay, cutting the deficit to 3-1. Freshman Joe Riddle led off the frame and reached on a throwing error before eventually scoring when Tanner Leighton’s two-out grounder was booted.

Two innings later, the Mustangs bolted ahead with three runs and Riddle was the instigator again. On the first pitch of the inning, he powered the ball over the right field fence. An out later, Ben Ives tied the game single-handedly. He stroked a single through the left side, stole second, continued on to third on a throwing error, and raced home when Eagle centerfielder Ryan Lombardi bobbled the ball.

An out later, Adams kept the inning alive by drawing a walk. Courtesy runner James Sloan swiped second base and scored the go-ahead run on Chris Talley’s two-out single up the middle.

The 4-3 lead lasted all of half an inning, however, as the Eagles knocked out Adams with two runs, taking the lead on a two-run homer by Travis Molina. Junior Charlie Gillies got an inning-ending double play and then nearly replicated his strong relief performance of last Saturday, giving his teammates a chance to rally.

That they did in the top of the sixth, taking the lead for good with two runs. Sloan, running for Bryan Lucas, who opened the inning with a single, scored the tying run on Ives’ sacrifice fly to deep left and Cody Harris, who followed Lucas’ base hit with one of his own, came home on Leighton’s two-out single to right field.

Then Gillies took over, blanking the Eagles over the next three frames, although not without some suspense. He gave up four hits in that stretch but stranded a like number of runners.

Buoyed by their teammate’s gutsy mound performance, the Mustangs went out in the top of the eighth and gave Gillies some much-needed breathing room. Once again, Riddle pulled the trigger, smacking his second leadoff of the game on the inning’s first pitch to make it 7-5.

Later in the inning, Leighton doubled in Ives, Talley singled in Leighton, and Lucas extended the advantage to 10-5 with a one-out single to plate Talley.

The Mustangs capped their double-digit outburst in the ninth when Sloan, running for Riddle after a leadoff walk, scored on a double play groundout. Gillies surrendered a meaningless run in the bottom of the ninth for the game’s final run and wound up going 4 2/3 innings of one-run, four-strikeout ball for his second win of the year.

Although both clubs banged out 16 hits, the Mustangs took greater advantage of theirs. Ives, Leighton, and Talley slapped out three hits apiece while Lucas and Riddle had two each.

In the nightcap, the Mustangs broke on top initially with a run in the top of the first when Leighton drew a leadoff walk, went to second base on a wild pitch, stole third, and scored on an Eagle error.

But, that slightest of margins was erased in the bottom of the first when the Eagles tallied twice off Mustang starter A. J. Work. The sophomore righthander blanked the Eagles over the next two innings but then they tagged him for four runs in the fourth, taking a 6-1 lead.

The Mustangs made some noise in the top of the fifth, halving the deficit with two runs. Adams led off with a base hit, Talley walked, and both moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Harris brought Adams home with a single up the middle and when Riddle reached on a fielder’s choice, Sloan, running for Tally, scored to make it 6-3.

But, that was all the Mustangs could muster the rest of the way while the Eagles matched them with two final runs in the bottom of the fifth.

After recording 16 hits in the opener, the Mustangs were held to just six in the second game with no one getting more than one hit apiece.

Work, who lasted just four innings, dropped to 1-1.

The Mustangs conclude their quick, Arizona trip on Saturday when they play at Grand Canyon University.

Game Stats

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