Sophomore righty Robert Winslow’s plan this year was to improve on an uneven freshman season, continuing to fine-tune his mechanics and build velocity.
The Master’s University’s plan Tuesday was for Winslow to throw a bullpen as he prepped for his next start after striking out 14 on Friday and earning NAIA Pitcher of the Week honors.
Neither plan stuck to the script.
TMU coach Monte Brooks turned to Winslow in the seventh inning Tuesday to extricate the Mustangs from a no-outs, two-men-on jam.
Winslow, who has had to regain his form, and weight, after catching pneumonia over winter break, answered the call and then some.
He pitched the final three innings for his fifth win in TMU’s 9-7 home victory over Bethesda University of Anaheim.
“He was awesome,” said TMU second baseman Matt Janes, who hit his first career home run in the sixth inning. “They came back a little bit, but once he came in and shut the door, it was huge.”
Trailing 7-3, Bethesda (19-16) scored four runs in the top of the seventh off TMU reliever Nate Bonsell, who exited with runners on first and second and no outs.
Winslow struck out the first two men he faced and induced a fly out to end the threat. Then TMU’s Dalton deVries drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the inning, and Janes set the final score by bunting in a run from third.
Winslow struck out six batters in all as he attacked with a live fastball that lost some luster over winter break.
Winslow, a Saugus High graduate who allowed seven runs in 10 1/3 innings as a freshman, weighed 205 pounds as he prepped for his second collegiate spring before dealing with pneumonia for two weeks.
He dropped 15 pounds.
“I was pretty tired,” he said. “I wasn’t able to work out or anything. My speed was a little down — stamina wasn’t great. But then I came back.”
Winslow’s been at his best of late. He walked only two in his complete-game domination of NAIA No. 9 Menlo College on Friday, sparking a three-game sweep and lifting the Mustangs back into contention in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
TMU is now just 2 1/2 games out of first place.
Tuesday’s non-conference game, though, tested the Mustangs’ focus.
TMU (24-18), winner of nine out of its last 10, sprinted out to a 4-0 lead by the end of the third.
In the middle of the sixth, with TMU leading 4-3, the Mustangs’ scoreboard operator updated Bethesda’s number of hits on the board from one to seven.
The Flames had quietly caught up. TMU got the message, scoring three in the bottom of the sixth, the first on Janes’ towering drive into the tree overhanging the left-field scoreboard.
Janes crossed home plate and pointed into the bleachers at his father, who’d made the trip from Riverside.
“First home run of my life,” Janes said, later adding, “As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone.”
If he’d never homered before, how did he know?
“I’ve never hit a ball where I’m just like, ‘That’s crushed. I got all of it,’” he said.