Truman graduate Kyler Barnett trying to earn starting pitching role for Park University baseball team
PARKVILLE, Mo. — Kyler Barnett knew he was pitching well last week but he tried to not think about what was happening.
The right-handed pitcher for the Ban Johnson Legends opened the game on June 1 by getting a 3-2 count on Vincent Tinoco, who plays for Regal Plastic.
The two are teammates during the school year at Park University and Tinoco drew a walk.
Then, Barnett responded by striking out the next two and then getting a ground ball. The pattern of mixing up strikeouts and ground balls worked well.
Before he knew it, the 2019 Truman High School graduate had retired 14 in a row. The streak ended when Canton Sharp had a two-out single in the fifth inning.
“I could tell by the pace of the game things were going well,” Barnett said. “I was sitting in the corner of the dugout trying to cool down and every inning I was thinking I didn’t think I had given up much. I think I was only in the stretch once. The deeper into the game, the more it got into my head but the hit drops in. It was like, ‘OK, let's get back to business.’ It was over and cool while it lasted, but let's get to work and get out of the inning."
Barnett tossed six innings, giving up one hit and striking out seven. Legends coach Cary Lundy – who doubles as Barnett’s college coach – had him on a pitch count of 80.
That is exactly where Barnett ended his night. Braden Maltbie tossed the final inning for a combined one-hitter in a 5-0 victory.
That allowed the Legends to salvage a split in the doubleheader – which came after a 4-3 walk-off loss in the first game.
For his effort, he was named the Ban Johnson Collegiate League pitcher of the week.
“It is humbling,” he said. “I’m coming in as a starter and hoping to go deep into the game and give myself a chance. I have done a decent enough job and it is humbling to be honored. It is the first time since high school winning awards. I couldn’t do it without my defense. I had 10 balls put in play and eight were ground balls. The infield was making plays and it was easy to keep cruising out there when you are getting three ground balls an inning.”
Through 10 innings this season, he had an ERA of 0.73 with 12 strikeouts and two walks.
He pitched in only four games and 4 2/3 innings last summer for the Legends, as a bulk of his season was spent waiting on the results of a COVID-19 test – which took 21 days. Three weeks in a season of only eight weeks of baseball made it difficult to say the least.
He spent time starting and pitching in relief this past spring for Park, going 2-0 with a 6.92 ERA in eight games, spread out over 13 innings. He started two games and Lundy’s goal this summer was to see what Barnett could do more next spring.
This spring, Barnett ran into trouble by giving up 23 hits in 13 innings, but also issued eight free passes – combined walks and hit batters – compared to 10 strikeouts.
“It is an opportunity to get him to get innings and get him ready as a starting pitcher,” Lundy said. “I didn’t know if he could be a starting pitcher. He is so high energy and sometimes stamina, it’s tough. If he can get it done in the summer, he can do it (in the spring), and so far, he has done really well. You want to see him be able to command the fastball and he is doing that well. He has a little sink on his breaking pitch and I think that has helped him get strike one and strike two.”
Barnett made his third start of the year Wednesday night. He got a no-decision in an 8-3 win over the MSBL Royals but gave up only one run over five innings.
There was some familiarity for him on the mound in a way.
Former Truman teammate Josh Patrick was back in the infield for the Legends after his college season ended last week with Crowder College taking third place in the NJCAA World Series. The two first became teammates when they were 9 years old.
Also at the game was Truman baseball coach Corey Lathrom, who caught the showdown at Creekside Baseball Park with his two sons. Barnett knew he was going to be starting on Wednesday and made plans for friends and family to come watch him start the second game.
That was his usual spot in the rotation the first two games, but found out early Wednesday that he was starting Game 1 instead of Game 2.
“It was awesome he was there,” Barnett said of Lathrom. “I still keep in good touch with him. I sub in the district so there are times I work with him or for him. I go to practices and games so I can still be part of the program. I love that coach and I love that program. I got a lot of pride for it, good or bad.”