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Wertz Shakes Slump to Seal Master's Fate


Mike Wertz hadn't cleared the fence in some time for The Master's College.

"I read somewhere it was 10 games," said Wertz, the Mustangs' leader in home runs. "I don't know. I haven't been seeing many good pitches."

Wertz feasted his eyes and his bat Friday on a juicy offering, and his ninth-inning three-run home run was as welcome as it was overdue.

Wertz smacked the first pitch from reliever Jon Rouwenhorst over the right-center field fence to provide insurance and Master's held on for an 8-4 victory over Biola in the first game of the NAIA Region II playoffs.

Master's (33-10) plays Biola (33-17) today at 11 in the second game of the best-of-three series. A third game, if necessary, will follow. The winner advances to the NAIA sectional playoffs next week at a site to be determined.

Wertz, a senior catcher, capped a forgettable day with his 11th homer. In four previous plate appearances, Wertz walked twice and twice was retired on foul popups.

The homer finally allowed Master's to breathe easily in what had been a tight contest. Master's overcame a 3-0 deficit after three innings with solo runs in the fifth and sixth innings.

In the sixth, Andy Salazar's leadoff homer cut the Eagles lead to 3-2. In the seventh, the Mustangs capitalized on two infield errors to score three runs and take a 5-3 lead.

Left-hander Ryan Pollard (5-3), a surprise starter, struggled through 6 2/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, including a two-run double to Ryan Beaver in the Eagles' three-run third.

Master's Coach Monte Brooks made several trips to the mound before replacing Pollard with Josh Wood. In the eighth, Kurt Fillmore moved from center field to pitch 1 2/3 hitless innings for his first save. It was only the second appearance in relief for Fillmore.

"I've pitched in the past, but I don't usually," Fillmore said. "I was happy [Brooks] had the confidence in me. I think he wanted to save some pitching."

Master's has yet to use its top hurlers in the series. Junior right-hander Josh Higgins is 12-3 and senior right-hander Mike Ploharz is 11-0. The pair have logged 116 2/3 of the staff's 311 2/3 innings this season.

Brooks declined to designate a starter for today. The decision to start Pollard, he said, was not born of a desire to save his best.

"We went with the guy we thought would be successful," Brooks said.

As for Fillmore, "He's come in when we needed him," Brooks said. "We feel pretty good about using him."

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