Irvine, CA -- It's not the worst thing to split a doubleheader. It's just that The Master's College was so enjoying sweeping opponents in the first two weeks of the 2014 campaign.
However, on Saturday afternoon in Irvine, the Mustangs couldn't get the broom out, losing to Concordia 3-2 in the nightcap after winning the opener 4-1.
The split was the second in as many weekends for the Mustangs, who left Irvine with their fifth straight series victory, improving to 13-2 overall and 7-2 in the GSAC where they enjoy a game-and-a-half lead over second-place San Diego Christian and Vanguard.
In the opener, the Mustangs welcomed back to the mound senior James Scott. The righthander, making his first appearance of 2014 after rehabbing from off-season elbow surgery, hurled three effective innings, allowing allowing just one hit and retiring the last six batters he faced.
His teammates gave him a run in the second inning when Collin Nyenhuis (Vista, CA) led off with a double to left-center field, moved to third on a Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) sacrifice bunt, and raced home on Tyler Krahn's (Abbotsford, BC, Canada) groundout.
That slightest of leads held up until the fifth when the Mustangs doubled their advantage in nearly similar fashion. Shackelford rapped a lead-off single up the middle, swiped second base, advanced to third on a Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) infield single, and scored on a Spencer Toth (Asheville, NC) groundout.
That was a big run because the Eagles had threatened against reliever Andrew Klausmeier (Northridge, CA) the inning before, stranding two and then did the same thing in the fifth when a runner was thrown out at the plate to quell another budding rally.
That seemed to galvanize Klausmeier's resolve as he retired the side in order in the sixth and seven frames, respectively.
However, the Eagles finally broke through in the last of the eighth, parlaying a single, a passed ball, and a two-out double into a run that halved the deficit.
Holding on to a precarious 2-1 lead, the Mustangs went searching for some insurance in the top of the ninth and got it with two more runs. Shackelford led off with a double down the left field line and was replaced by courtesy runner Ethan Stine (Apple Valley, CA), who, one out later, raced around the bases to score on a Robison double down the right field line, extending the Mustang lead to 3-1. They tacked on one more run moments later, when Robison, after moving to third base on a groundout, scored on a wild pitch.
It appeared that they would need all of that three-run cushion after closer Josh Brown (Valencia, CA) got into trouble in the ninth, allowing a pair of singles. However, he slammed the door shut out on the Eagles when he struck out Ryan Goodman to preserve the win for Klausmeier (1-0) and gain his second save of the season.
The Mustangs, who managed just a season-low five hits, were led by Shackelford and Robison who had two apiece.
Hits were at a premium in the nightcap, too, as Mustang starter Tucker Richardson and Eagle Jose Cardona went head-to-head on the mound. Richardson, who had tossed a complete game at San Diego Christian last weekend to improve to 3-0, was dialed in again.
He started the game by spinning four shutout innings, retiring 11 of the first 14 batters he faced and capping off the fourth with a 1-2-3 effort. By that time, he had a run to work with after the Mustangs sandwiched two singles around a throwing error and a groundout to take a 1-0 lead. The second of those base hits came with two outs off the bat of Jon Popadics (Boise, ID), scoring Brown from third base.
Richardson's string of solid pitching came to an end in the fifth when the Eagles battered him for three runs on four hits to take a 3-1 lead.
Wasting little time in coming to the rescue of their teammate, the Mustangs struck back in the sixth and Popadics was the instigator. He reached first base on a bunt single, moved to second on Steve Karkenny's (Chatsworth, CA) sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a throwing error and jogged home on Joe Riddle's (Bakersfield, CA) one-out double down the right field line.
Down 3-2 with runners on second and third and just one out, the Mustangs were primed to tie the game and possibly take the lead. However, a groundout and a strikeout put an end to the threat.
After Richardson closed out his second straight complete-game effort (six innings) with a 1-2-3 sixth, the Mustangs made some more noise in the seventh and final frame when Robison and Brown led off with consecutive hits and a Toth sacrifice bunt moved both runners up 90 feet.
However, Robison was thrown out at the plate on a grounder to Eagle third baseman Atlee Schwab and after Karkenny was walked to load the bases, Nyenhuis grounded into a game-ending fielder's choice.
The Mustangs outhit the Eagles 8-5 with Brown's three hits leading the way while Popadics and Robison had two apiece.
Richardson, in tough-luck fashion, took his first loss of the season to fall to 3-1.
After being on the road the past two weekends, the Mustangs return home next weekend to host Vanguard in a three-game series on Reese Field that starts Friday afternoon at 2:00pm.