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Mission Savors Challenge of WSC

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Mission College baseball team won’t be able to defend its Southern California Athletic Conference title next season.

The Free Spirit, coming off its most successful season ever, instead will play in the Western State Conference.

John Klitsner, Mission’s athletic director and baseball coach, said Friday that WSC Commissioner Aviva Kamin and the conference athletic directors have approved the move.

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“I’m real excited about it,” Klitsner said. “It’ll be more competitive to get to the playoffs, but it’ll be a new challenge and I like it a lot.”

The school, Klitsner said, will remain a member of the SCAC in all sports, even baseball. The conference, however, will not have baseball games next season.

Klitsner said Mission was forced to find another conference in baseball because Cerro Coso departed the five-team SCAC after this season to join the Foothill Conference. That left only the Free Spirit, East L.A., Compton and L.A. City in the conference.

East L.A., Compton and L.A. City have been invited to join the South Coast Conference, Klitsner said.

“We found that playing with only four teams was an unworkable situation,” Klitsner said.

Under the plan that is expected to be finalized next week, Mission will play in the WSC South Division. Six teams--Bakersfield, Canyons, Glendale, Pierce, Santa Monica and Valley--now make up that division. But Santa Monica officials are considering dropping their program for financial reasons or merging with West L.A. to field a team. West L.A. does not have a team but has a baseball diamond.

Klitsner said that if Santa Monica and West L.A. don’t merge or if Santa Monica drops its program, Mission will take over Santa Monica’s slot and the division will be able to maintain the 25-game schedule it followed this season. That would give the WSC two six-team divisions, because Hancock will join the conference next school year and play in the North Division.

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If Santa Monica and West L.A. combine to form a new program, then rescheduling will be necessary.

Regardless, Mission will take its rising program to the WSC next season. The Free Spirit won its first SCAC championship with a 17-7 record this year and finished 26-17 after losing two games to Rancho Santiago in a best-of-three series in the Southern California regional.

Playing in the WSC will strengthen Mission’s reputation, Klitsner said.

“It’s going to help us,” he said. “People used to (insult) our conference, so now it’s going to help us in our recruiting.”

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