Sprinkle's move from closer to starter gives Mules third weekend arm

Central Missouri starter Jonathan Sprinkle throws a pitch in the first inning of the Mules 9-0 win over Arkansas Tech on Sunday, Feb. 9.

WARRENSBURG — The premise of Jonathan Sprinkle’s transition from lock-down closer to weekend starter boiled down to the Mules needing 27 outs to win a game anyways, so why not try and get the most out of one of their top arms.

“You know he is capable,” Central Missouri coach Kyle Crookes said. “I think it’s just a matter of two things. Everybody’s first question is who is going to come out of the pen if Jonathan doesn’t? And there are other people. We will be okay. Second question is why, if he is so good coming out of the pen? If you can start a game and go five scoreless, that’s how you want to start a game.”

The UCM staff approached the junior with the idea during the offseason.

“I was really excited as it’s a good opportunity for me to do the best I can for my guys,” Sprinkle said. “I am just happy to give everything that I have for them.”

As a sophomore, Sprinkle twice went over five innings in relief, both against Missouri Southern in must-win games. In those two performances, he combined for two runs, four hits and 19 strikeouts.

“Out of the pen he throws five innings scoreless,” Crookes said. “What’s the difference, in my opinion, and I know that’s not exactly how things go, but whether you are a starter or a reliever, he’s done it. He’s gotten the best hitters in the country out. The biggest difference is knowing you are going to throw versus not knowing when. I think that routine was the biggest adjustment.”

The move gives Central Missouri a third starter to go along with junior Mason Green and Ole Miss transfer Jordan Fowler

Through two years, Sprinkle was one of the better closers all-time for the Mules, compiling 12 saves, the ninth most in UCM history. He locked down 10 saves as sophomore during the Mules run, the sixth most in a single season.

“It’s been a couple years since I’ve started,” Sprinkle said. “Honestly, one of the biggest transitions was just continuing the mindset of shoving everything through my catcher, not trying to save myself for longer innings and putting everything behind every pitch.”

The first start of Sprinkle’s collegiate career didn’t go as planned, as he went two innings against Colorado-Mines on 59 pitches that featured just two walks, two hit batters, two wild pitches, a hit and an earned run. All six outs he recorded came by punch out in the no decision.

He bounced back with a 5-inning outing on Sunday, Feb. 9, in a 9-0 win over Arkansas Tech.

“I was happy with the way Jonathan Sprinkle threw,” Crookes said. “I was really happy with it after the first infield hit because he could have folded but he didn’t then shoved it for five and was really efficient and pounded the zone.”

Sprinkle scattered just three hits across the five innings of work while striking out six and walking two.

“This week, felt confident and trusted the guys behind us,” Sprinkle said.

Central Missouri remains at home for a four-game set against the University of Mary. The Mules will play two doubleheaders against the Marauders on Saturday, Feb. 15, and Sunday, Feb. 16. First pitch for both days is set for 1 p.m.

Sports Editor Randy Speer can be reached by emailing randy.speer@dsjnow.com, by calling (660) 747-8123 or on Twitter at @RandySpeer_DSJ.

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