Are two head coaches better than one?
The Master's College baseball team, which opens its season by playing host to Christ College of Irvine on Saturday, is about to find out.
John Zeller, who led Master's to its first winning record last season (25-20), stepped down a month later, giving way to Pat Harrison. Zeller stayed with the program, however, as an assistant.
With its brain trust doubled, Master's is expected to improve on its NAIA District III record of 17-7 and second-place finish.
"I think we've got some good athletes who can swing the bat and play good defense," Harrison said. "Our pitching staff will be the big question mark until we get into some game situations."
Pitchers Kevin Taylor and Jeff Hagy, both seniors, are the only tested starters on a relatively inexperienced pitching staff. Four of the seven freshmen on Master's roster are pitchers.
Taylor was 8-2 with a 3.42 earned-run average as a junior. Hagy (6-4, 200), from Yorkville, Ill., transferred to Master's from Florida Southern before last season. He was 4-5 with a 5.67 ERA last season.
"The seniors can do pretty well for themselves," Harrison said. "Kevin is going to be one of the top pitchers for us. Hagy is a big kid who can throw well. He is going to have a pretty good year."
Tony Ellis, a senior second baseman who hit .337 last year, is Master's top returning hitter. Senior third baseman Tod Skinner hit .309 and drove in 35 runs last season.
Rounding out the infield will be senior first baseman Tim Kane, who hit .255 last year, and senior shortstop Eric Beagles, who Harrison said is a "much better hitter" than his .243 average of last season indicates.
Master's was dealt its biggest blow several months ago when it lost sophomore first baseman Jeff Preston for the season. Preston, who led the Mustangs with 7 home runs and 42 runs batted in last season, severely strained ligaments in his left shoulder during a baseball game in October.
"He was the power hitter for the team, so that's obviously going to cost us runs," Harrison said.
Harrison is no stranger to Southern California baseball, having played infield and been an assistant at USC when Rod Dedeaux was the Trojan coach. Harrison, in fact, has been an assistant at the Division I level for 15 years, including 10 years at Oral Roberts University and last season at Washington State. He has been at Master's since June but still is adjusting to coaching at the District III level.
"I'm not really familiar enough with the NAIA teams to know what our competition is going to be like," he said.