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Baseball - Fri, Mar. 14, 2014

La Mirada, CA -- Joe Riddle drove in the go-ahead run and Jason and Steve Karkenny provided clutch relief to rally The Master's College past Biola 8-5 Friday afternoon in La Mirada.

The victory in the first game of a weekend series with the Eagles kept the Mustangs (24-5 overall, 14-5 GSAC) in sole possession of first place in the conference, leading San Diego Christian, a winner earlier in the day against Westmont, by half a game.

Riddle's (Bakersfield, CA) base hit through the left side with two outs in the seventh inning plated Jon Popadics (Boise, ID) who had reached on a bunt single with one out, was balked to second base, and advanced to third on a Steve Karkenny (Chatsworth, CA) flyout.  It gave the Mustangs their first lead (6-5) of the game after Spencer Toth (Asheville, NC) had tied it earlier in the inning with a lead-off home run, the first of his senior season.

Toth wasn't done, either. An inning later, the catcher came through again, giving the Mustangs a 7-5 lead with a single to right field that scored courtesy runner Bryce Clancy (Phoenix, AZ).  Then senior third baseman Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) stepped to the plate and gave his team more of a cushion, lining one to center field that brought home Josh Brown (Valencia, CA), who had singled earlier in the frame, with the game's final run.

That three-run lead was enough although the Eagles tested it, loading the bases in the eighth off Karkenny before the junior closer got an inning-ending groundout.  An inning later, he continued to struggle, allowing a pair of hits but got some help from his batterymate Toth, who threw out an Eagle trying to steal in between the singles. He finished off the hosts, however, by inducing a game-ending groundout to Popadics, preserving the win for his team and brother Jason (7-0) while notching his fourth save in the process.

Jason Karkenny continued to show why he's one of the nation's bright young hurlers, taking over for a struggling Tommy Kister (Saugus, CA) in the second inning and pitching five and two-thirds innings of one-run ball to keep his team in the game.  By the time he entered in the second inning, the Eagles had built a 4-0 lead, tagging Kister for seven hits in their initial at-bat.

The deficit grew to 5-0 in the third when Karkenny gave up a run on three hits but that was the last time the Eagles would score and the Mustangs were just about to make the scoreboard operator really work.

They started in the fourth, putting up two runs on three hits, two of them of the extra-base variety.  Shackelford led off the frame with a double down the left-field line and trotted home moments later when Popadics slammed one over the fence, closing the gap to 5-2 with his team-leading third roundtripper of the year.

After the Mustangs stranded two runners in the fifth, they made up for it in the sixth, scoring two more runs to draw within one.  With one out, Riddle walked and Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) doubled him to third base with a drive to left field.  Caleb Halverson (Temple City, CA) plated Riddle with a single to center field and then was on the back end of a double steal that Robison scored on to make it a 5-4 game.

With Jason Karkenny keeping the Eagles off the scoreboard, that set up Toth and Riddle for their seventh-inning heroics that capped off the squad's come-from-behind win.

With the victory, Jason Karkenny added to his nation-best win total, all in relief and a 1.39 earned-run average to go with it.  Brother Steve's four saves lead the GSAC and he hasn't allowed an earned run yet in 14 innings of work.

At the plate, the Mustangs rapped out 13 hits led by Toth, who went 3-4 with two rbi, and Popadics and Shackelford, who had two apiece.

It will be a quick turnaround for the clubs as they meet in a doubleheader on Saturday with the first pitch being thrown at noon.