January 30, 2014

By Mason Nesbitt, for TMC Sports Information

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. –The Master’s College baseball team knows San Diego Christian well.

The two teams played nine times last season including in the GSAC tournament championship and in the NAIA national tournament.

And the GSAC-rivals will play for the first time in 2014 in a three-game series in San Diego over the weekend.

“Who plays each other nine times, (really)?” said TMC head coach Monte Brooks of last season.

A better question might be, who beats the same, playoff-caliber team eight times in a single year?

TMC won two of their first three meetings at home and then swept the Hawks in San Diego on March 22 and 23.

The Mustangs squandered a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in the first game of that series before rebounding to win in 11 innings.

The two teams met again in the GSAC Tournament championship game on May 4 with the Mustangs winning 8-3.

And then the NAIA placed the Hawks in TMC’s NAIA Opening Round tournament and the teams played two more times.

TMC won both, finished with an 8-1 season record against the Hawks and advanced to the NAIA World Series.

But the rivalry goes back further than last seasons’ marathon.

Hawks head coach Chris Bando left TMC—where he served as pitching coach—before the 2010 season to take the San Diego Christian job.

Bando took a handful of TMC players with him and the rivalry was born.

“The players make it (out to be) more of a rivalry than me,” Brooks said.

The rivalry may’ve been fading before last year, as players graduated and players unversed in the schools’ history gradually filled the rosters.

Nine games and three postseason matchups have a way of freshly sparking a rivalry though.

“When you play a team nine times you start getting a little tired of playing each other and get more competitive. You want to beat them more,” said TMC senior pitcher Tommy Kister. “The games get more heated in moments.”

Kister and TMC’s pitching staff face a daunting task this weekend.

San Diego returns most of a starting lineup that finished second in the GSAC in batting average and home runs last year.  All-GSAC performers Taylor Eichorst and Jeff Lusardi return to play first and third base, respectively.

“They have a boatload of seniors…and they added two very talented starting pitchers,” Brooks said. “They’re on top of the world.”

The Hawks are the NAIA’s #22 ranked team and boast a 7-0 record entering Friday. TMC comes in at #12 and a game better at 8-0.

But the Mustangs are about to get their toughest GSAC test since…they last played San Diego Christian.