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Master's Able to Crush Biola in Clutch for Title

College baseball: Mustangs win NAIA Region II series with 18-7 victory in third and deciding game.

May 14, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA CLARITA — When pitching waned, power took over.

As a result, The Master's College captured its first NAIA Region II baseball championship Saturday by bombing Biola, 18-7, in the third and deciding game of their best-of-three series at Master's.

Master's (34-11), rebounding from a 6-4 loss in 12 innings earlier in the day, pounded a season-high 21 hits, including two-run home runs by Kurt Fillmore and Andy Salazar, and the second three-run homer by Mike Wertz in as many days.

The Mustangs advanced to the NAIA sectional finals and will play Region I champion Albertson College of Idaho in a best-of-three series beginning Friday at a site to be determined.

Coach Monte Brooks of Master's, soaked by the traditional celebratory ice-bucket shower from players, praised the resilience of his offense.

"Our kids, to their credit, are real patient hitters," Brooks said. "We've been a team that has been able to score in the latter part of games."

It didn't figure to be a slugfest. After two tight series games, including the extra-inning duel Saturday in which starters Josh Higgins of Master's and Chad Ekin of Biola worked into extra innings, another close encounter seemed imminent.

Master's won the series opener Friday, 8-4, but held a 5-4 lead in the ninth before Wertz delivered a three-run homer.

Biola (34-18) led, 3-0, in the third inning of the deciding game before the Mustangs scored four runs on two-run blasts by Fillmore and Salazar. Master's followed with a five-run fourth that included Wertz's team-high 12th home run.

Master's, the designated visiting team in the final game, led 13-3 after six innings and made matters even more decisive with a five-run ninth that extended the lead to 18-5.

All of which alleviated pressure from Fillmore (1-1), who took the mound in the fourth for his second appearance of the series and only third of the season. Fillmore replaced starter Chad Spencer and allowed only three hits while striking out eight in six innings.

Of course, he had breathing room.

"That made it easier," Fillmore said. "I have a little tail on my fastball and I guess they had a little trouble with that. [Brooks] likes to go with guys with experience. We figured they'd be down in pitching a little toward the end. But we were down in pitching, too."

Ordinarily, Brooks would have given the ball to Mike Ploharz, a junior right-hander who is 11-0 with a 3.10 earned-run average. However, Ploharz was suspended by Brooks this week for disciplinary reasons and did not play in the series. Brooks said he is uncertain whether Ploharz will return this season.

"We just felt we would need some extra-base hits to win," Brooks said. "We've been able to hit the long ball."

Salazar, who homered in the first game Friday, hit for the cycle, going five for six and driving in five runs. Salazar, a junior outfielder, had two doubles to go with his fourth homer.

"We never panic when we get down," Salazar said. "We knew it was going to come down to who had the big bats."

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