Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Master's baseball splits pair with San Diego Christian

Recap, photo courtesy of Master's University
There was an odd moment early in Thursday's double-header that said a lot about a trying three-game set.

The wind was blowing hard enough at Lou Herwaldt Stadium that when Mustang Preston White laced a foul ball toward the parking lot, a billowing flag whacked the ball and sent it back toward the playing surface.

Master's entered the week with momentum and a date with the Golden State Athletic Conference's last-place team, San Diego Christian. But the Mustangs met more resistance than they might've expected.

Master's won Thursday's opener 5-3 before managing five hits in a 3-0 loss later in the day to drop two of three in the series.

San Diego won a sloppy game, 8-2, on Wednesday. Mustang mistakes and missed opportunities at the plate marked the final two games.

"We didn't hit and we didn't play smart," said Master's coach Monte Brooks.

Master's (21-16, 13-13 in GSAC) made two errors in Thursday's first game and messed up on the bases at least twice in the second. The Mustangs put a runner on base in the final inning of the finale but couldn't score him.

Jaiden France finished the game 2-for-2. He was 2-for-4 in the first game and knocked in a pair of runs with a single in the fifth that extended TMU's lead to 4-1.

It was more than enough for starter Scott Savage, the reigning Golden State Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week. He might not win the award again, but he pitched into the sixth inning for the fourth time this season and struck out six. All three runs he allowed were unearned, but each made the game more interesting.

White, TMU's closer, entered with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth. A gaggle of pro scouts lifted radar guns and video cameras to capture the 6-foot-6 flamethrower.

He didn't disappoint – punching out the Hawks leadoff hitter to end the threat. Then White worked around a ninth-inning double to record his sixth save of the season, among the most in the NAIA.

"He rose to the occasion," Brooks said. "Big-time play."

White said TMU's mental errors were the most-disappointing part of the weekend.

He also said he believes the Mustangs will play loose should they secure one of the GSAC's five conference tournament bids. Master's currently sits in fourth.

"I think all the pressure's off us when it comes to the playoffs," White said. "We play pretty free. I think the other teams that come in as higher seeds kind of have the pressure on them. We're going to come in, hair on fire, ready to go."

The Mustangs lead Menlo by 3.5 games, with another three teams roughly four games back, in the conference standings.

Master's, which dropped four of its six meetings with San Diego Christian this season, has 10 conference games remaining before the GSAC tournament in late April. It hopes, by then, that Savage will still be throwing the way he has lately. The senior righty said some keys have been locating his curve and slider and winning 1-1 counts.

Savage said he feels the Mustangs are oh-so-close to making a run.

"We call it the cusp," he said. "We're trying to break through the cusp. We were here last year. We've been in tough spots before.

Master's started last season 15-17 before winning 26 of its final 32 games and advancing to its second straight NAIA World Series.

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