Santa Clarita, Calif. -- There's a reason why Steve Karkenny is the GSAC Player of the Year. He hit two home runs as the No. 7 Mustangs went on to beat the 14th-ranked Eagles 9-1 on the second day of the GSAC Tournament in Placerita Canyon.
Karkenny (Chatsworth, CA) struck out against Swanson in his first at-bat but in the third it was a different story. After the Eagles nicked Mustang reliever James Scott (Canyon Country, CA) for a run in the top of that frame, Swanson gave up a one-out, infield single to Caleb Halverson (Temple City, CA) and a double to Jon Popadics (Boise, ID). Karkenny then stepped to the plate and took a Swanson pitch the opposite way over the right field fence for his team-high 10th home run of the year and a 3-1 lead.
Two innings later, the sophomore leftfielder struck again. With two outs, Popadics drew a walk and Karkenny whacked another Swanson offering over the fence, this one in left field, expanding the advantage to 5-1. That gave Karkenny his third two-homer game of the season and five rbi.
That four-run cushion was plenty for Scott, who pitched valiantly in relief after taking over for starter Tyler Elrod (Modesto, CA) in the second inning after the senior righthander was hit by a batted ball and had to leave the game. So, a day before a scheduled start, Scott (6-4) took over on the mound and went 7 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and just one run while striking out four.
His teammates weren't done giving him more space to work with, either. In the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) led off with a double to the gap in left-center field, moved to third on a Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) sacrifice bunt, and scored on Chris Talley's (Simi Valley, CA) single up the middle for a 6-1 lead.
Two innings later, the Mustangs capped off a big offensive day that featured seven extra-base hits. The last of those came in the eighth when Halverson finished off a three-run frame with his third home run of the year, a two-run blast over the right field fence. That scored Anthony Leal (San Juan Capistrano, CA) who had driven in courtesy runner Nalu Polancic (Vista, CA) with the first run of the inning. Polancic was running for Talley who had ripped a one-out double to right-center field.
Karkenny led the nine-run, 12-hit assault with a 2-4, five-rbi day but he had plenty of help from Popadics, Shackelford, Robison, Leal, and Halverson who had two hits apiece.
Now, the Mustangs stand on the verge of pulling off the rare double of winning both the GSAC regular-season and tournament championships. A win against San Diego Christian in a 12:00 pm start on Saturday will wrap up the latter. However, if the Mustangs lose to the Hawks, then the two clubs will turn right around and play another game to determine the tourney champion.
The Mustangs have yet to face the Hawks in the tournament but did take five of six regular-season games from their neighbors to the south.