Life is good for University of Central Missouri senior Eric Silkwood.

Life is good for University of Central Missouri senior Eric Silkwood.

“Livin’ large,” he said as he drove to the Mules baseball practice. “I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had in my life. I really found a home at UCM.”

Silkwood was a standout on the Blue Springs High School baseball team that claimed the Class 4 state championship in coach Brad Mayfield’s final season in 2007. He then played a key role in the Rod’s Sports A’s American Legion state championship that summer.

But the standout pitcher/outfielder opted to play football in college and signed on with Lindenwood College, located just outside of St. Louis.

“I found out that I didn’t like practicing all week for just one game,” said Silkwood, who was one of the area’s premier receivers for the Blue Springs football team. “I wanted to play baseball. So I started looking around.”

He talked with former Blue Springs teammate Bubby Williams, who enjoyed so much success at Crowder College in Neosho, Mo., that he eventually signed a pro contract with the Houston Astros.

“He talked to the coaches at Crowder for me,” Silkwood  said, “And I got an email from them and wound up playing there my sophomore year. I had some success and the team did pretty well. So it was a positive experience.”

Silkwood had a 4.32 ERA in 25 innings of work, helping the team go 37-17.

Two other former teammates, Bret Schwartz and Andrew Melanson, played baseball at UCM, so Silkwood gave them a call.

“I knew a lot of guys at UCM and called coach (Tommy) Myers, and I guess you could say the rest is history,” Silkwood said.

He made big strides on the mound as a junior and finished as the Mules No. 5 starter. He was 3-0 with a 4.71 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 28 innings.

This year, Silkwood is the Mules set-up man, and has a 3-1 mark, 5.11 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 24.2 innings.

“I love coming out of the pen,” Silkwood said. “You always have to be ready to go in and pitch. Our starters throw a game, then put on the sweats for four days. I have the chance to be in there every other day or so – and I love that. It’s a challenge to be ready day in and day out, and I’m lovin’ this season.”

And the Mules are lovin’ what they’re getting from their lanky 6-foot-5 right-hander.

“Eric throws a lot of strikes and changes speeds very well,” Myers said. “He was effective in many roles last year, and we look for much of the same in 2011.”

The Mules are 30-6 overall and 25-5 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

“I came from a great high school program at Blue Springs, and now I’m playing for one of the most successful MIAA programs in the country,” Silkwood said as he drove into the Mules parking lot. “Gotta get to work. Well, if you can call playing baseball work. I call it fun.”