The Master’s University’s 2017 season can mostly be summed up in Jason Karkenny, a right-handed pitcher who entered the season with high expectations, weathered injury and peaked at the right time.
For more than a month, Karkenny forsook the mound for left field because of bone spurs in his throwing arm.
He returned to pitch in TMU’s miraculous Golden State Athletic Conference tournament title push, and he pitched again Wednesday in Lawrenceville, Georgia, tossing a complete-game in the Mustangs’ 9-1 win over Georgia Gwinnett, a victory that secured TMU’s second straight trip to the NAIA World Series next week.
This after the Mustangs (39-21) navigated injuries to 12 players at different points in the year and overcame a 15-17 start.
“This year we’ve been through so much,” Karkenny said. “We’ve had so many trials. We’ve been through just about every situation you can think of. … This is by far the most fun that I’ve had at Master’s playing because of how much we went through and how good we’ve been.”
Karkenny, the winningest pitcher in program history, continued pitching after his injury.
But, eventually, he and coach Monte Brooks decided he should stick to the outfield and the batter’s box, where he posted a .313 batting average.
The story doesn’t end there, though.
Karkenny pitched 5 2/3 innings against Vanguard on May 9 in the GSAC tournament.
Then Brooks tabbed him to pitch Wednesday.
He responded by limiting Georgia Gwinnett to one run on nine hits. He struck out six and walked three.
“I stayed down in the zone. I brought all my pitches for strikes and was able to locate my fastball and able to throw my cutter for strikes,” Karkenny said. “I mean, the coaches and (assistant coach Nick Jorgensen) did a good job scouting them. (Jorgensen) calls the game, and he called a great game. I basically threw whatever he called.”
TMU’s offense answered the call, scoring twice in the third, two more times in the fifth and three times in the seventh.
Mustang Max Maitland went 4-for-5 and scored three runs. Michael Sexton finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, and Aaron Shackelford had four hits.
The NAIA World Series begins on May 26 in Lewiston, Idaho. TMU’s opponent is yet to be announced.
The Mustangs finished eighth at the World Series in 2016, sixth in 2013 and third in 2000.