San Diego Christian’s Steven Pico watched ball four in the fourth inning and flipped his bat toward his team’s open-faced dugout.
The bat cartwheeled across the turf into a back handspring, landing, finally, at the feet of a group of players.
It was the only real threat the Hawks faced during Friday’s visit to The Master’s University’s Lou Herwaldt Stadium.
The Mustangs scored twice in the bottom of the ninth, but it only bronzed a 7-4 defeat that dropped them to 8-11 in Golden State Athletic Conference play.
TMU (18-18 overall) fell behind 2-0 before its first at-bat after 6-foot-4, 230-pound Vahn Bozoian launched a towering home run over the left field fence.
Outfielder Jason Karkenny climbed the wall, but couldn’t catch up. The Mustangs never did, either.
“It did hurt us a little bit to go down early,” Karkenny said. “But we’ve been in that position before.”
The Mustangs overcame two deficits against Arizona Christian of Phoenix for two wins last weekend.
San Diego Christian (13-14, 8-11) — now tied with TMU for seventh in the GSAC — added three runs in the fourth off Mustang starter Robert Winslow.
Winslow entered the game with a 2.47 ERA in 58 1/3 innings of work, but Friday he didn’t have the life on his fastball TMU’s grown accustomed to.
In six innings, the Hawks tagged the righty for seven earned runs on 10 hits.
TMU, which struck out 14 times, didn’t pick up its first hit until the fourth inning, when catcher Jonah Jarrard reached on an infield single.
The Mustangs scored their first run on an error later in the inning, but left two men on base — as they did in the fifth and the seventh.
“We had opportunities. But we didn’t capitalize with runners on to keep the game tight,” said TMU coach Monte Brooks. “…We haven’t gotten the big blow (this year). Where’s the triple in the gap that drives in two?”
In other words, the Mustangs have struggled to find timely hitting.
Now they’re running out of time.
TMU has just 11 conference games left, needing to climb the standings if it’s to make the five-team GSAC tournament.
The Mustangs have made the NAIA national tournament in each of the last four years, making two NAIA World Series appearances in that span.
Aaron Shackelford drove in two runs for the Mustangs on Friday.