Santa Clarita, CA -- On a day when hearts were on the minds of many, The Master's College broke the heart of visiting Vanguard, rallying with three runs in the eighth inning to beat the Lions 9-7 in the first of a three-game series on Reese Field.
The win was the 12th-ranked Mustangs' fifth in their last six games, keeping them a game-and-a-half ahead of second-place San Diego Christian at 8-2 in the GSAC and 14-2 overall.
Down 7-6 going to the last of the eighth, Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) beat out an infield hit with one out and raced to third base on Steve Karkenny's (Chatsworth, CA) single up the middle. After a passed ball moved Karkenny up 90 feet, Jon Popadics (Boise, ID) was issued an intentional walk to load the bases. Joe Riddle (Bakersfield, CA) followed with a game-tying groundout to second and then Collin Nyehuis (Vista, CA) snapped the deadlock and completed the late-inning rally with a two-run single up the middle, putting the Mustangs ahead 9-7.
That two-run edge was handed over to reliever Andrew Klausmeier (Northridge, CA) after Jason Karkenny (Chatsworth, CA) allowed a lead-off walk. The righthander made a lot of hearts pound quicker than usual, allowing a single before getting a momentum-killing double play, and then a game-ending popout to preserve the victory.
Beside the late-game offensive heroics, much of the credit for the triumph also went to reliever Jason Karkenny who limited the damage in Vanguard's three-run seventh and shut down the Lions in the eighth, keeping his team close enough to rally. It was Karkenny's fourth win (4-0) of his freshman campaign, all in relief.
The Mustangs fell behind right from the start as the Lions picked on starter Tommy Kister (Saugus, CA) for three runs on four hits and an error in the top of the first inning. The Lions added another unearned run in the second, using a Mustang miscue, a sacrifice, a groundout, and a two-out single to go up 4-0.
Looking up at a four-run deficit, the Mustangs began the methodical process of carving away at it with a solo home run off the bat of Tyler Krahn (Abbotsford, BC, Canada) in the last of the second. It was the transfer rightfielder's first roundtripper of the year.
Kister settled down over the next four frames, keeping the Lions off the scoreboard through the middle innings while keeping his teammates within striking distance. In that span, he faced just one batter over the minimum and retired six in a row in one stretch.
His teammates obliged his effort by recording their third straight scoring inning in the fourth, notching three runs to vault ahead 5-4. Bryce Clancy's (Phoenix, AZ) groundout drew the Mustangs to with a run, Robison's two-out single up the middle tied the game, and Steve Karkenny's clutch single gave the club its first lead of the day.
Behind Kister, that margin held up until the seventh when the Lions took advantage of a usual mistake-free Mustang defense, using two errors to score three times in taking a 7-5 lead.
The Mustangs answered immediately in the last of the seventh, drawing to within one run on another clutch, two-out hit. Following a double play, Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) kept the inning alive with a two-out double to center field and moments later, Krahn duplicated that, ripping a run-scoring double to the left-center field alley, making it a 7-6 game and setting up the team's eighth-inning heroics.
Surviving a season-high four errors, who had committed only two through the first 15 games, the Mustangs countered that by rapping out 14 hits, three coming off the bats of Robison and Krahn, while Popadics, Steve Karkenny, and Shackelford had two apiece.
The club has little time to enjoy this one as the two teams turn around quickly to play a doubleheader on Saturday. The first pitch will be thrown at 11:00 am on Reese Field.