At 6-foot-5, Robert Winslow was like a castle tower under siege. After five one-hit innings against Hope International of Fullerton, The Master’s University pitcher found himself amid a swarm a water-bottle squirting teammates just off the mound at Canada College in Redwood City. Finally, bereft of his hat and with an untucked jersey, Winslow freed himself from the celebration of a 7-1 win that secured the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament title and earned an automatic berth to TMU’s fifth straight NAIA national tournament.
It was the Mustangs’ second straight conference tournament title, and it looked like a long shot Sunday when they fell into the loser’s bracket. That meant packing their bags for the summer or winning five straight games. TMU (35-21) chose the latter. “I’ve been coaching a long time,” said TMU coach Monte Brooks, “and this is the most amazing achievement that we’ve had in program history because of all the obstacles we had to hurdle.” The list starts with roughly 12 injured players at different points in the year, not the least of which coming in Sunday’s 7-4 loss to Menlo College of Atherton when ace Aaron Alexander suffered two blood blisters to his throwing hand. Alexander, though, would ride again. So, too, would TMU. The righty returned to throw four one-run innings Wednesday against a Hope team that TMU beat on Tuesday to force the finale. Winslow took it from there, striking out five and walking one after going 7 1/3 innings on Monday. “(My arm) felt pretty good,” the Saugus High grad said. “A little sore, but it was doable. It wasn’t bad.” Neither was TMU’s offense, which scored four runs in the bottom of the third to climb out of a 1-0 hole. Catcher Jonah Jarrard provided the fireworks with a two-run home run. His 11th of the year. TMU’s Michael Sexton hit his team-best 15th homer in the fourth inning and finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs, while David Sheaffer had two runs knocked in. It was the second-fewest runs the Mustangs scored in the tournament. TMU put up four, 12, nine, 14 and 17 runs in the other games. At some point did it feel like it was meant to be? “After we beat Menlo (on Monday) we were kind of feeling good about ourselves,” Winslow said. “But we still had another three games to continue pressing forward.” Pressing forward was the Mustangs’ mindset in late March when they were 15-17 overall and 6-10 in conference play. TMU then rattled off 20 wins in 24 games to win the GSAC tournament. “The perseverance and the endurance, we talked about it often throughout the year,” Brooks said, “and particularly if we got to the postseason.”