When it comes to The Master’s College baseball team, disregard the early returns.
The Mustangs, who will open their season Feb. 3 at Cal State Los Angeles, annually go looking for trouble, scheduling early-season games against teams from larger schools.
Last season Master’s finished 11-9 in the NAIA District 3 but won only five of 22 nonconference games. This season, five of Master’s first six games are against NCAA Division II squads.
“I like to play the toughest competition we can,” said Chris Harrison, coach of the Mustangs. “It shows the guys we’re recruiting that we have a commitment to play the best, and it exposes our weaknesses so we know what we need to work on the rest of the year.”
Harrison says he already knows his team’s strengths: catchers, outfielders and starting infielders.
Dan O’Sullivan, a junior, is the starting catcher. He batted .352 with 10 home runs and 31 runs batted in last season and earned honorable-mention All-American recognition. His backup is Jeff Tomlinson, a switch-hitting junior who additionally will platoon at first base and designated-hitter.
Matt Henzie, a left-handed hitting sophomore, will split time at first base and designated-hitter. He batted .472 last season in 36 at-bats.
Joe Pence, who led the Mustangs last season with a .359 average, has moved to second base, leaving the shortstop position to Darin Brebes, who played third base and batted .297 in 1992. Jayme Riggio, a freshman from Saugus High, will take over at third base.
The Master’s outfield has been bolstered by the return of Kevin Claytor, who played for the team as a freshman, then transferred to Valley as a sophomore and Westmont as a junior. Claytor, who will play center field and bat leadoff, had a district-high 23 stolen bases last season.
“Defensively, he’s really going to help us,” Harrison said. “He can really go get the ball.”
Claytor will be followed in the batting order by Pence, who had 12 stolen bases and scored a team-high 34 runs last season.
Tony MacCaughtry will play either left or right field. He batted .357 with six home runs and 26 RBIs and earned all-district honors last season. The other starting position, Harrison said, “is a battle.”
The Mustangs will start the season with a pitching rotation of Bart Jennings, Chris Beck, Mark Redman and Sam Minyard. Jennings, a senior, was 1-3 last season. Beck, a junior, was 4-3 after winning nine games as a freshman. Redman is a promising 6-foot-5 left-hander. Minyard, a senior who was 0-4 last season, also is left-handed.