Santa Clarita, Calif. -- Hall of Famer Yogi Berra may have misspoken many years ago but his reasoning was right.
The same could be said about the last two weekends at The Master's College where the Mustangs have outlasted the San Diego Christian squad three times, beating the Hawks last weekend for the GSAC Tournament championship, edging them 3-1 on Friday, and then rallying past the visitors 11-7 Saturday to win the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round-Santa Clarita Bracket on Reese Field.
The club's first-ever Opening Round championship capped off the weekend for the Mustangs, who ran their winning streak to a season-best nine games, improved to 43-15, and earned the club its second-ever berth in the NAIA World Series. That event runs from May 24-31 in Lewiston, Idaho.
San Diego Christian defeated Tabor (Kan.) 9-7 in 10 innings earlier in the day. Peter Hoyt hit a 2-RBI triple in the top of the tenth to advance to play The Master's for the second time in two days and the third time in a week.
San Diego Christian took the first lead of the game. Sparked by a trio of two-out singles, the Hawks lit up Mustang starter Andrew Klausmeier for four runs in the top of the second inning. Meanwhile, Hawk starter Nick Greene was quieting the Mustang bats, retiring 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, and keeping them hitless through the first four frames.
However, that all changed for the senior righthander in the fifth when the Mustangs not only broke up the no-hitter but used an error and a long fly to even the game at 4-4. Designated hitter Joe Riddle opened the frame with his club's first hit, dumping a single into right field. Following a walk to Ryan Shackelford, a Sam Robison groundout moved both runners up 90 feet but a Chris Talley popout seemed to put a damper on the rally.
But, the Mustangs got a gift that turned into Christmas. What looked like an inning-ending groundout off the bat of Brett Piper (Saugus, CA) was misplayed by Greene, allowing Riddle to score. Then, James Scott (Canyon Country, CA) stepped to the plate and the pitcher-turned first baseman lofted one over the right-field fence for his first home run of the season, tying the game.
That energized Klausmeier (6-1) who produced a shutdown sixth inning and then watched as his teammates made him a winner in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Steve Karkenny was hit by a pitch, advanced to second base on a passed ball, and then made the wisest decision of the game, one that led to the go-ahead run. When Riddle's long fly to right field was brought back into the park on a sensational leaping catch by Hawk rightfielder Cade Gotta, instead of going halfway as the majority of baserunners would do, Karkenny went back to second base, tagged up and raced to third. Moments later, that paid off when Shackelford's infield single plated Karkenny with the run that put the Mustangs ahead to stay.
Tommy Kister took over for Klausmeier in the seventh and set the Hawks down in order. Then in the Mustang half of the frame, the offense got on track, spraying five hits around the park and scoring five times before an out was recorded to take a 10-4 lead. Caleb Halverson drove in courtesy runner Nalu Polancic and Piper with the first two runs of the inning, Jon Popadics added a two-run double, and Karkenny capped off the hitting with an RBI single up the middle.
Kister gave up a solo homer in the top of the eighth but the Mustangs got that one back in the bottom of the inning when Robison punched a lead-off single to shallow right-center field and then raced around the bases to score on a Talley double to the gap in deep right-center field.
The Hawks made things interesting in their final at-bat, scoring twice more before Kister struck out Alex Mann with a man on to end the game.
Kister wound up going the final three frames to earn his 10th save of the campaign. Talley and Scott paced the club's 10-hit attack with two hits apiece.
Now, the Mustangs move on to the NAIA World Series for the first time since 2000 when they finished third. Times and opponents will be announced next week.