|An Historic Split|
Monte Brooks was just relieved that his team won a game for the first time in two weeks, snapping a seven-game losing skid. What the 15th-year head coach didn’t know was that Saturday’s 6-5 nightcap win over Concordia gave him 400 career wins at the helm of the Mustangs.
The game two victory, the club’s first since March 5, boosted the Mustangs above the .500 mark overall (14-13) but they’re still looking up at most of the clubs in the GSAC with a 5-9 conference. It also provided much-needed relief following a 17-11 beatdown in the opener.
The Eagles, who had scored 21 runs in two wins over the Mustangs earlier in the week, continued their prolific ways in the opener. Picking on Mustang starter J. T. Adams, the Eagles scored four runs in the first inning and three more in the second, more than offsetting the Mustangs’ run in the top of the first, that came courtesy of two Concordia errors.
Down 7-1, the Mustangs carved into the deficit with a two-run third inning. Adams drove in the first run, a single to right field that scored Ben Ives who had singled, stolen second base, and advanced to third on a Tanner Leighton infield hit. Leighton scored later in the inning when Chris Talley bounced out to first base.
But, any gains and any hope instilled in the third disappeared in the fourth when the Eagles exploded for eight runs, going up 15-3 and chasing Adams (1-3). The big blow of the frame was a three-run homer off the bat of Tony Harkey. An inning later, they made it 16-3 with another run.
The natural tendency might have been to concede at this point but the Mustangs fought against this and made the rest of the game very interesting.
They started modestly, tallying two runs in the top of the seventh. Leighton doubled in Matt Johnson for the inning’s first run and James Scott plated Leighton with a two-out single up the middle.
In the top of the eighth, they halved the deficit (16-8), scoring three more runs on three hits. With one out, Matt Johnson was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on an Eagle error. Ives doubled in Ryan Shackelford with the inning’s second run and Leighton capped the uprising with a single up the middle that plated Ives.
The Eagles got one of those runs back in the bottom of the frame and the Mustangs closed out the scoring with three runs in the top of the ninth.
Leading off the inning, Spencer Downs reached on Concordia’s sixth error of the game and trotted home when Joe Riddle clubbed his fourth homer of the year, a blast over the right field fence. Bryan Mitchell followed with a single to right field and eventually scored on an Ives’ sacrifice fly to center field.
Rapping out 11 hits, the Mustangs were led by Leighton who had three while Scott and Riddle had two more.
The nightcap was much more subdued and much more to the Mustangs’ liking. It started out just like the opener with the Mustangs scoring a run in the top of the first. This time it took just one swing of the bat as Leighton hit a solo homer over the right field fence, his fourth of the year.
In marked contrast with the opener, the Eagles did not score in the first and second innings as starter A. J. Work kept them off the scoreboard, allowing just one hit.
But, it didn’t last as the Eagles used four hits in the third, including a run-scoring single, to vault ahead 2-1.
However, this time the deficit wasn’t as large and the Mustangs retaliated with a two-run fourth that sent them back in front. With one out, Downs singled through the left side and raced to third on Parker Price’s two-out double to the gap in left center field. Then, Cody Harris clutched up and ripped a single to center field, scoring both Downs and Price.
The 3-2 lead was short-lived, however, as the Eagles evened things up in the bottom of the frame, nicking Work for one run on two hits.
Neither club scored in the fifth but in the sixth, the Mustangs put a three-spot on the board, an uprising that put them ahead for good. For the second time, Downs ignited the Mustangs, leading off with a single up the middle and advancing to second base on a wild pitch. Bryan Lucas worked a walk and then Price followed with a single to left field that scored courtesy runner James Sloan with the tie-breaking run.
One out later, Ives laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached first base safely on an Eagle error, loading the bases. Leighton bounced one to third base and Lucas was forced at the plate but Adams came up with another clutch hit, singling to center field to score Ives and Price for a 6-3 lead.
Charlie Gillies took over Work in the sixth and the Eagles promptly took advantage of the righthander’s wildness, parlaying two hits, a wild pitch, a walk, and a balk into one run. Gillies was fortunate that the Eagles didn’t get any more as they left two on the bases.
After the Mustangs went down in the seventh and final inning, James Scott replaced Gillies on the mound and ran into a lot of trouble. He struck out the first batter he faced, walked the next, but appeared to be in good shape when the next batter flew out. But, he allowed an infield single and an error jammed the bases.
Then, he walked a batter, forcing in a run and moving the tying run within 90 feet of the plate. But, he calmed a multitude of fluttering hearts when he induced a game-ending popup.
Work improved to 4-2 and Scott really earned his club-best third save of the year.
The Mustangs equaled their first-game output with 11 more hits. Downs paced the attack with three hits while Leighton and Price had two more.
A tired Mustang squad will get some rest over the next couple of days before resuming GSAC action on Wednesday when they start a four-game series with No. 3 California Baptist in Riverside.