By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
FULLERTON — The plan took root a month ago and came to fruition Saturday at Amerige Park in Fullerton.
The Mustang coaching staff loved Preston White‘s production as the team’s closer, but the idea of seeing their flame-throwing Major League Baseball prospect toe the rubber for more innings and earlier in games was enticing.
Saturday, coach Monte Brooks made the switch, tabbing White for the first start of his collegiate career.
The righty rose to the challenge; the Mustang offense did not.
TMU lost 4-0 to Hope International, dropping two out of three in the series and making for an interesting final six games as it tries to secure a spot in the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament.
The Mustangs are 22-19 overall and 14-16 in conference. They are in fourth place, one game in front of Hope, and 2.5 ahead of Arizona Christian, with just five teams making the GSAC tournament.
White pitched five innings Saturday, allowing three runs — all in the fourth — on four hits. He struck out three and walked five, pitching exclusively from the stretch as scouts postured radar guns behind home plate.
How would he rate his first start?
“Out of 10?” White asked. “…. I would say probably like a seven out of ten. The results weren’t bad. … (But) I have to locate my pitches better and be more consistent.”
The runs came in a quirky fourth when Brandon Gonzalez led off with a double and came around to score on a pair of wild pitches. Jonah Dean-Hargroves plated two with a bloop single to right later in the inning. It made for another tough-luck loss for White, who had tallied a 2.70 ERA and six saves out of the pen.
In his seven losses, White has allowed one earned run three times and no earned runs twice.
“He was good. It was a good start,” Brooks said. “One inning cost us. … Outside of that (not much allowed) against a very good team.”
White usually begins warming up in the seventh or eighth inning, balancing his prep with playing time in right field where he leads the Mustangs in batting average.
Before his start, he had to make sure he didn’t warm up too much or too early.
“I could have thrown a few more pitches in the pen, but I think I was fine,” White said.
The Mustangs managed three hits, but had their chances. TMU left a runner at third in the first. They stranded a runner at second in the fourth. And they left the bases loaded in the fifth.
“We had some opportunities with runners on and didn’t get the big hits,” Brooks said. “That hurt us.”
Hope hasn’t had trouble scoring. The Royals have scored 66 runs in their last six GSAC games. They added insurance when TMU walked in a run in the sixth, and they dropped the Mustangs to 1-3 this week, including a loss Tuesday against Westmont College.
Master’s will finish conference play with a home series against Vanguard University next weekend and a road series at Westmont the following week.
“It’s going to be competing every day,” White said. “… We can’t take any game for granted at this point. We’ve got to try to get to the GSAC tourney, and then once we get there, we’ve got to win it.”