Hawks Pay The Piper, Mustangs Win A Championship
May 4, 2013
Santa Clarita, Calif. -- Brett Piper slugged an eighth-inning grand slam and Andrew Klausmeier pitched over seven innings of gutsy ball to lead The Master's College to an 8-3 win over San Diego Christian and its first-ever GSAC Tournament championship.
The victory earned the Mustangs the rare double of winning both the conference's regular-season and tournament crowns while preparing them for the NAIA's National Championship Opening Round that starts next Thursday on Reese Field.
Piper's (Saugus, CA) bases-clearing roundtripper, his second clutch hit in three days, gave the Mustangs some much-needed breathing room after the Hawks had closed a 4-1 deficit to one run on a Cade Gotta two-run homer in the top of the eighth.
Leading up to Piper's big fly, Joe Riddle (Bakersfield, CA) singled up the middle with one out, Ryan Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) doubled him to third base, and Sam Robison (San Juan Capistrano, CA) was intentionally walked to load the bases. The need for insurance runs took a temporary hit when Chris Talley (Simi Valley, CA) struck out but Piper got hold of a hanging slider from Hawk reliever Brock Heerdt and launched it over the fence in left field to give the Mustangs a five-run cushion.
Tommy Kister, who had given up Gotta's home run an inning earlier, was up to the task in the ninth as he surrendered one hit before closing out the Hawks for his record-breaking eighth save of the season. Kister broke the old single-season record of seven set by Jonathan Steele in 2004.
The Hawks drew first blood in their intial at-bat, sandwiching a pair of singles around a sacrifice bunt to take a 1-0 lead. The Mustangs didn't do much through the first four frames against Hawk starter Jesse Hernandez, who limited them to just two hits in that span.
But, that all changed in the bottom of the fifth when the Mustangs scored four runs on four hits to take a lead they would never give up. Talley and Spencer Toth (Asheville, NC) opened the frame with consecutive singles, and Caleb Halverson brought them both home when he tripled over the head of Hawk centerfielder Chad Erickson for a 2-1 lead.
The Mustangs weren't done, just yet. They loaded the bases again when Jon Popadics (Boise, ID) reached on an infield single and Steve Karkenny was intentionally walked. Cody Harris followed with a sacrifice fly that plated Halverson and when the throw back into the infield skipped away, Popadics raced home with the inning's final tally.
With the way Klausmeier (5-1) was throwing, that three-run lead looked safe enough. After giving up that first-inning run, the junior righthander posted six straight innings of shutout ball, retiring the Hawks in order twice and getting big outs at other times.
Down to their final six outs, though, the Hawks started to figure out Klausmeier with Gotta's two-run shot providing the evidence. One batter later, a Jeff Lusardi double put the potential tying run on second and that's when Coach Monte Brooks went to Kister out of the bullpen. The righthander wildpitched courtesy runner Chris Gonzalez to third base and walked a batter before inducing an inning-ending groundout to Harris at third base.
Halverson paced the Mustangs with three hits and Popadics had two more.
Now, with two championships under their belts, the Mustangs move on to their first Opening Round appearance since 2007. This time, though, they'll be home where they'll welcome four other teams from around the country to Reese Field on Thursday. Matchups and times will be announced on Monday.