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In Hot Pursuit

Avila Homers Twice to Pull Within One of Master's Record


THOUSAND OAKS — Don't tell Rob Avila that 13 is unlucky.

It's the number he wears for The Master's College baseball team and it's also the school's single-season home run record, which he is hotly pursuing.

"Dan O'Sullivan has the record [in 1993]," Avila said. "I know 'cause Aaron [Penberthy] was chasing it last year."

Avila, a 5-foot-11 junior third baseman, tied Penberthy and pulled to within one of O'Sullivan with two two-run homers in Master's 11-9 victory over at Cal Lutheran in a nonconference game on Friday.

Five of his 12 home runs have come in the last three games. Last season, he slugged seven homers while playing right field for the Mustangs.

"God has blessed him with tremendous ability," said Monte Brooks, Master's third-year coach. "He's had the ability to knock them out. He's become more patient this year in getting his pitch and taking advantage of it."

Avila seized at least two good opportunities at Cal Lutheran, where a cold breeze blowing to right field made the cozy field (290 feet to the foul poles) seem even smaller for batters.

With nobody out in the second inning and Penberthy at second base after a walk and a steal, Avila hit a pitch from Adam Springston over the left-field fence to put the Mustangs ahead, 2-0.

He cranked another two-run shot off Springston, this time to right field, to pull Master's (27-6) to within 6-5 in the sixth. Luke Kollmann followed one out later with a home run to tie the score.

"We had a good [scouting] report on him, we knew what not to do with him, but we didn't get it done and he hurt us," said Coach Marty Slimak of Cal Lutheran.

"Both balls that went out were mistakes. They were pitches those kind of hitters will hit like that."

Avila, a catcher at Fresno Hoover High and Fresno City College, transferred to Master's to join brothers Aaron and Joey Penberthy, his friends from high school.

He rooms with Joey, an outstanding basketball player for the Mustangs. Now he might have to fill in at catcher for Aaron, who broke his left hand when hit by a pitch in the fourth inning.

"I like the infield better," Avila said. "But I've always played catcher, so it's no problem."

For Cal Lutheran (21-7), the problem on Friday was pitching. Or lack of it.

Springston allowed five hits and six runs in six innings, Jarrod Hoagland gave up three hits and three runs in two-plus innings and Wayne Mahaffey (0-2) yielded three hits and two runs in one inning.

The Kingsmen outhit Master's, 15-11, including third baseman Jeremy Schlosser's 20th double, leaving him one shy of the school's season record set by Brad Smith two years ago.

Cal Lutheran led, 9-6, when Brian Malchow hit a three-run home run off reliever Billy Huddleston (6-0) in the eighth. But Master's used five hits, two walks and a hit batter to score five runs in the ninth before Huddleston shut the door on the Kingsmen.

Slimak was worried the Kingsmen might be rusty after a 13-day layoff because of spring break.

Cal Lutheran had won seven in a row, including a three-game sweep over La Verne that gave the Kingsmen a two-game lead in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference over second-place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Whittier.

"When you're hot, you hate to stop," Slimak said.

Avila probably feels the same way. The Mustangs have 14 games to play, plenty of time for him to overtake O'Sullivan.

"I've been working with Monte on my swing," Avila said.

"I'm trying to be patient, wait for my pitch and have a lot of confidence."

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