SANTA CLARITA, Calif.—An early lead and a late comeback was not enough for San Diego Christian College as a grand slam from Brett Piper in the bottom of the eighth inning gave The Master's College an 8-3 win and the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament championship on Saturday.
SDCC falls to 37-18 while TMC moves to 40-15.
The Hawks took the lead in their first at bat. Alex Mann singled up the middle to lead the game off and Garrison McLagan moved Mann to second with a sacrifice bunt. Cade Gotta followed with a single, bringing Mann home. Taylor Eichhorst then reached on an error. TMC starter Andrew Klausmeier settled in and retired the next two hitters to escape the jam.
The Hawks leadoff batter reached base in each of the first four innings, but Klausmeier routinely pitched out of trouble, keeping the Hawks lead at 1-0.
In the third inning, TMC threatened by placing runners on the corners with one out. But SDCC starter Jesse Hernandez picked off the runner at first and retired the hitter to keep the Mustangs off the board.
After SDCC starter Jesse Hernandez kept the Mustangs at bay for the first four innings, TMC broke through in the fifth. Chris Talley and Spencer Toth had consecutive singles to lead off the inning. Caleb Halverson then lined a triple over the head of SDCC centerfielder Chad Erickson to bring home two runs. TMC was able to load the bases when Johnathan Popadics legged out an infield single and Steven Karkenny was intentionally walked, and SDCC opted to go to the bullpen, bringing Brock Heerdt into the game.
Cody Harris then hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring Halverson easily. Popadics also tagged up from second base and advanced to third, drawing the throw from Erickson. Erickson's throw got past SDCC third baseman Jeff Lusardi and went into the TMC dugout, allowing Popadics to advance home.
Heerdt was able to retire the next two hitters, but TMC had grabbed the lead, 4-1, heading into the sixth.
After Klausmeier was able to get the Hawks in order in the sixth, the Hawks' Gilbert Viera doubled with one out in the seventh. After moving to third on a groundout, Klausmeier was able to induce a groundout to end the inning.
SDCC was finally able to chase Klausmeier in the eighth. Mann singled to start the inning. Following an out, Cade Gotta hit a towering homerun over the leftfield wall to cut the lead to 4-3. After a second out, Lusardi doubled into right centerfield, and TMC went to their bullpen. Tommy Kister entered the game and, after a walk to Erickson, got Viera to groundout to third to end the inning.
After an initial out in the bottom of the eighth, Joe Riddle singled and Shackelford doubled to put runners at second and third. Heerdt then intentionally walked Sam Robison to load the bases with one out. Heerdt was able to get a strikeout for the second out, setting the stage for the pinch hitter Piper. On a 2-2 pitch, Piper sent a flyball over the leftfield wall to push the Mustangs up 8-3.
SDCC was able to get one baserunner in the ninth, but was unable to mount a comeback.
Klausmeier (5-0) earned the win, going 7.2 innings, allowing three runs on 10 hits and striking out three. Kister earned his eighth save of the season, throwing 1.1 innings, allowing one hit and striking out one.
Hernandez (2-3) suffered the loss for the Hawks. The southpaw allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in four innings of work. Heerdt also tossed four innings, allowing four runs and striking out five.
Halverson was 3-4 for TMC, with two RBIs. Popadics added two hits for the Mustangs.
Mann was 3-5 with a pair of runs for SDCC. Gotta, Lusardi, and Erickson each had a pair of hits for the Hawks, who totaled 11 as a team. Gotta was responsible for driving in all three runs for SDCC.
The Hawks now wait for the possibility of an at-large bid into the NAIA National Championship Opening Round. The announcement will come Sunday afternoon.
The Mustangs earned an automatic bid with the conference tournament win. TMC is a host site for the Opening Round tournament, which begins on Thursday.