Freshman Jesse Steinbring’s first start as a Mule was nearly a disaster. After the first three Northwest batters reached, he walked in a run. The Bearcats led 1-0 with bases loaded and nobody out.
That’s when he flashed the talent and low-90s fastball that has the Mules baseball coaches so excited for him. Steinbring struck out the next two batters and kept Northwest scoreless for five frames in a 6-5 extra-innings victory.
Head coach Kyle Crookes said he was proud of Steinbring’s start.
“As a freshman, he’s got to grow,” Crookes said. “He’s a guy we have high hopes for. If we’re going to grow as a program, we need him to grow into that role … He got his feet wet a out of the bullpen a few times and (we) wanted to give him the opportunity to start a game. If you ask him, it wasn’t exactly how he had it drawn up.”
Steinbring allowed one run in two hits and five walks and struck out two Saturday. He said nerves, and lack of command on secondary pitches was a factor in the first inning.
“It’s always good to get that first strike,” Steinbring said. “If I just settle in with my curve ball, my fastball will do it.”
The Mules were kept off the board by Northwest starter Anthony Caenepeel until the fifth inning. Matt Elliott scored Matt Safranek after beating the throw to first on a 2-out grounder to second.
Safranek’s RBI single in the sixth scored Derek Cornell in the sixth to give the Mules their first lead. Safranek was 3-for-5 at the plate with an RBI and two runs.
A Dylan Farrell sac fly and Cole Distler bases-loaded walk pushed the Central Missouri lead to 4-1 in the seventh.
Grant Gavin blew the save in the ninth allowing three hits, a walk and two groundouts the Mules were unable to convert into double plays. A passed ball scored Jake Lewis from third to tie the game, and the Bearcats took the lead on a Nick Gotta RBI single.
Crookes credited the Bearcat offense for being hard outs.
“I don’t think anything had to do with defense there,” Crookes said. “They hit some line drives there.”
Bearcat righty Carson Smith loaded the bases in the 10th for Mules shortstop Jackson Schnurbush, who grounded out to tie the game at 5. Dylan Farrell provided the go-ahead run with a line drive that carried over the centerfielder’s reach.
“I don’t know if (Farrell) hit that ball any harder than he hit that ball to left or hit the ball to right,” Crookes said in reference to Farrell’s earlier hard-hit outs. “He had a great day and didn’t have a lot to show for it until the very end.”
The Mules (14-8, 12-3 MIAA) go for the sweep over Northwest today at 1 p.m.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2