The St. Joseph Mustangs secured a 4-0 homestand in dominant fashion Saturday night. Also extending their winning streak to five games, the Mustangs dispatched the Nevada Griffons with a 15-4, seven-inning rout. Now 3-0 against Nevada this summer, St. Joe is now 11-5 overall and 10-5 in M.I.N.K. League play.
Playing as the Tenderloins for a second time this summer, the St. Joe offense was sizzling hot from the start. Left fielder Easton Bruce led the charge yet again, driving in four runs. One night after blasting a solo shot, Bruce hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning for his fifth long ball of the season. With the round-tripper, Bruce extended his league lead in homers, took the team lead for runs batted in (16) and moved into the league’s top three for RBI. In three games against Nevada, he is now 7-for-11 with three home runs, a triple, six runs and 11 RBI.
Mustangs starting pitcher Brandon Stone also maintained his place among the league’s best in Saturday’s win. With six strikeouts in five innings of three-run baseball, Stone moved his K total to 23 for the summer. That mark ties him with Antonio Escano of Sedalia for the league lead, though Escano has pitched five more innings.
On Star Wars Night, the Mustangs used the force early and often. After Nevada scored in the top of the first, a hit batsman and three consecutive walks tied the game for St. Joe. Third baseman Jeremy Rader then dunked a bases-loaded single into left, scoring two. Two batters later, the first of a team-high three hits from first baseman Aron Harrington made it 4-1.
Stone retired the side in the second, and the offense resumed its attack on Nevada pitching. Center fielder Brayden Luikart pulled an RBI triple to the right-field corner before scoring on a passed ball. The Griffons countered with two in the top of the third, but a 6-3 deficit was the closest they would get.
St. Joe added two more runs in the fourth on a Harrington double and a single by right fielder Dakota Spicer. After Stone finished his start by retiring seven in a row, five more Mustang runs came home in the fifth. Bruce’s home run to the Yellow Frog Graphics Party Deck made it 11-3. Then, with the bases loaded, second baseman Will Dryburgh scorched a grounder toward third. The baseball took a wicked hop, scooting into left field and scoring two more.
Though right-hander Camden Lutz allowed a run in the top of the sixth, the Mustangs bats kept the game in run-rule territory with two more runs in the bottom half. Lutz finished the job in the seventh, closing with five strikeouts in his two innings of relief.
Once again, the Mustangs are half a game of the North Division-leading Carroll Merchants. Already 2-0 against the Merchants, St. Joe will have a chance to take charge of first place with a trip to Carroll on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. The road trip will also take the Mustangs to Sedalia and Chillicothe after an off day Monday.