By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The St. Joseph Central baseball team was cruising for a little while, building a 5-1 lead after the third inning.
The Indians didn't get overly comfortable, as Savannah came charging back to tie the game at 6-6 in the middle of the sixth inning.
Central (4-2) responded with a four-spot in the bottom of the sixth, and senior pitcher Gavin Maltsbarger held Savannah scoreless in the seventh for a complete game in a 10-6 win for the Indians on Monday afternoon at Phil Welch Stadium.
Maltsbarger was his biggest critic after the game, as he struck out three batters, hit three but walked only one. Savannah managed seven hits and six earned runs against him.
Offensively, Maltsbarger also scored a team-high three runs, including a single-shot homer to lead off the home half of the fourth.
"I didn't pitch very well," Maltsbarger said after 105 throws on the mound. "I should have worked out my off-speed a little more. I couldn't really get that going. I battled. I mean, I gave up six (runs). A lot of my mistakes. As a team, we're going to get better and learn and grow."
Maltsbarger reached his pitch count of 105 throws right as the seventh inning ended. Trailing by four, Savannah tried to rally with a leadoff single from Tyson Hilsabeck, but two flyouts and a groundout quickly nullified the threat.
"I liked what Gavin did," Central coach Brent Seifert said. "Going back out there after the sixth when he struggled a little bit. We had that struggle, they tied it up and we came back in the bottom of the sixth and were able to push four (runs) across and let Gavin come back and finish it. He battled. He didn't have his best stuff today, but sometimes that happens."
After putting Savannah down 1-2-3 to start the game, Central got to work quickly on offense. Junior Logan Miller led off with a single to right, and he was brought home by an RBI double to center by junior Matthew Cuadill.
Savannah got that run back in the top of the second, but Central got up 5-1 in the third, scoring four runs on two hits, two errors, two walks and a wild pitch.
Trailing 6-3 entering the sixth, the Savages tied the game, thanks to a pair of singles, an error, a walk and two hit batters.
With Heisman Lafave relieving starting pitcher Aiden Leonard for Savannah, Central started off the bottom of the sixth with a couple of singles and two hit batters.
After senior Zach Williamson had a sac fly to drive in a run, junior Hayden Grunert stepped up to the plate.
Facing a four-strikeout day, Grunert belted a two-run RBI double to left center to give the Indians some needed insurance runs and a 10-6 lead entering the final inning.
"That was great to see," Seifert said of Grunert's hit. "You could tell mentally it was starting to get to him a little bit. He came up in a perfect spot, though. Nobody out, bases loaded, knew it was coming and put it in play. Baseball can humble you sometimes a little bit, but sometimes it rewards you a little bit."
Winners in four of their last five games, Central's schedule ramps up with eight games in the next 10 days, including a test at Lee's Summit (3-4) on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
The biggest test of the coming days, Seifert says, will come on the mound.
"We're going to find out what kind of arms we have," said Seifert. "We've played six games over 2.5-3 weeks, so I haven't had to use everybody. We're going to find out quickly how deep we are on the mound. That's the fun part, though. We get to come out here and play baseball, and we've got a lot of it coming up here soon."
Savannah, whose bullpen was a bit depleted after a doubleheader against Platte County Saturday, looks to break a three-game losing streak when they host Maryville on Tuesday 4:30 p.m.
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.