His teammates are used to St. Joseph (Mo.) Mustangs pitcher Aaron Baker keeping his cool, so his behavior before his start Tuesday against the El Dorado Broncos in the NBC World Series threw some of them off.
He was, decidedly, not cool. He was amped for what, in all likelihood, would be his last start of the summer.
“You’re so used to him just being calm, you see him on the bus ride over here and he’s just amped,” St. Joseph third baseman Mark Robinette said. “I think it got all of us kind of amped, too.”
The Mustangs handed the Broncos their first loss of the NBC, 4-3, and did so with a late-inning rally and a complete game from Baker, who struck out five, walked one and gave up no earned runs in the win.
St. Joseph faces the winner of Tuesday night’s late game between Greeley, Colo., and Santa Barbara, Calif., on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. El Dorado won’t play again until Thursday in the NBC’s Super Six, with the Broncos’ opponent to be determined via re-seeding.
“We’ve had a lot of good team wins all summer,” Baker said. “Without everyone playing together and doing their part, we wouldn’t be able to pull out wins like we did tonight.”
The Mustangs got to El Dorado starter Dakota McKaskle in the third inning with a sacrifice fly from Kyle Simpson that scored Patrick Burkhart for a 1-0 lead. Robinette, a junior at Oklahoma State, followed with a double that scored fellow Cowboy Saulyer Saxton for a 2-0 lead.
“Being the featured game, against a team that’s playing well … you have to love this environment,” Robinette said. “Makes things fun for everybody.”
El Dorado got one of the runs back in the bottom of the third on a St. Joseph throwing error to make the score 2-1.
After McKaskle struck out all three Mustang batters in the top of the seventh, El Dorado took the lead in the bottom of the inning when St. Joseph shortstop Sam Tolleson missed on a routine grounder that scored El Dorado’s Tyler Buchanan and Chris Godinez and gave the Broncos a 3-2 lead.
“We should have been able to put it away,” McKaskle said. “But things started falling apart a little bit.”
Gil Rehwinkel came on in relief of McKaskle with runners at first and third with no outs in the eighth, struck out the first batter he faced and got St. Joseph to hit into what should have been a routine double play … but a bad exchange between second baseman Arturo Corona and shortstop Chuck Duarte allowed Kyle Simpson to score and tie the game at 3-3.
St. Joseph’s next batter, T.J. Dailey, also appeared to hit into a double play that would have ended the inning, but Corona couldn’t get the ball out of his glove for the throw to first and Robinette scored for a 4-3 lead.
Robinette finished the game 3 for 5 with one RBI and one run.
“Two routine double play balls we turn in our sleep, but we don’t do it those times,” El Dorado manager Pat Hon said. “They give us two runs and we give them right back. We had a chance to go out and flat win it but didn’t get it done.”
Baker ended El Dorado’s hopes in the final two innings, giving up just one hit and sitting the Broncos down 1-2-3 in the ninth, ending the game by snagging a sharp liner back to the mound from Duarte.
“The team kept battling back,” Baker said. “I settled into a groove a little bit but and just kept working. I could feel my arm start to loosen up late and I got a little stronger. Nothing too crazy, just doing what I’ve done all summer.”