It was a million dollar day for Central Missouri.
The Mules baseball team, with the help of alumni benefactor Jim Crane, introduced newly installed AstroTurf at Crane Stadium/Tompkin’s Field to an audience of about 500 people – including Kansas City Royals hall of fame member Frank White and retired Crane’s number before their home opener.
Temperatures likely felt warmer on the artificial playing surface than the 50 degrees at first pitch, but things never got too hot for Mules lefty Tyler House, who allowed four base runners in 5.2 innings during the 2-1 UCM victory over Pittsburg State.
House, who earned his second win of the season, said following Crane’s dedication ceremony produced minimal anxiety.
“First home game, everybody had a little bit of jitters and adrenaline going through,” House said. “And then Mr. Crane came down and, you know, blessed the field. It was nice.”
Crane, who owns of the Houston Astros and played baseball at UCM from 1973-76, committed $1 million dollars in October to help pay for the synthetic playing surface at Tompkin’s field. His No. 24 is the first player’s number to be retired in Central Missouri baseball history.
Central Missouri had been shutout through the first two innings to the tune of five strikeouts, one walk and no hits.
House allowed one run in the second after issuing a two-out walk to Gage Grant. He scored after Jack Mercer doubled to left-center.
Blake Wilfong earned the first hit off Pittsburg State starter George Brandecker with one out in the third inning. Matt Elliott scored Wilfong on a triple to right-center field.
Dylan Farrell grounded out to third for the go-ahead run.
Brandecker, 0-2, allowed two runs in 5.2 innings with seven strikeouts and two walks.
House issued a one-out walk in the fifth inning to Chase Kilgore. With Jake Durosette at bat, left-handed House picked off a stealing Kilgore. Durosette popped out to second baseman Brad Jelinek to end the inning.
Dusty Maas, who started at second base for the Mules in the season opener at Houston, suffered an injury to his wrist in practice earlier this week. Jelinek, playing in his sixth game of the season, bobbled a double-play ball in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Lucas Williams relived House.
House finished with four strikeouts on the day.
Williams had runners on the corners after a wild pitch advanced Brett Macary to third and Andrew Vogelbaugh walked. Christian Arnold grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning and the PSU scoring threat.
Mules head coach Kyle Crookes said defense up the middle can still improve.
“We had a big opportunity to turn a double-play and we didn’t do it,” Crookes said. “And that really hurt. So, we’re not there yet. That’s for sure. We’ve got a ways to go.”
Grant Gavin needed 10 pitches in a scoreless ninth inning to earn his first save.
The Mules host Pittsburg State today in game two of a three-game series today at 2 p.m.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2