By Blake Baxter
EUREKA – When baseball season ended prematurely due to unforeseen circumstances, no one was more disappointed than Kyle Cashdollar – and with good reason.
The fifth-year senior was in the midst of the best season of his career as a Red Devil.
"I was feeling good," Cashdollar said. "The team seemed to be picking up steam as we came through our spring trip. I was looking to build momentum coming into conference."
"Good" doesn't accurately describe his performances for EC this spring; Cashdollar on the mound meant money in the bank.
In six pitching appearances, the right-handed reliever from Morton only allowed three hits and two unearned runs while recording a 0.00 ERA. He notched 11 strikeouts, averaging 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings and only conceding two walks over 9 1/3 innings of work.
Cashdollar said he didn't see this coming. During the winter, he'd had some arm issues that prevented him from pitching as frequently as he would have liked, and he was coming off a frustrating junior campaign.
But during the season's first weekend at the Millsaps Invitational in Jackson, Mississippi, Cashdollar tossed a scoreless inning in a blowout over Millsaps. And then, two days later, he got out of a jam in a close game that the Red Devils went on to win against Edgewood.
Cashdollar entered with EC clinging to a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning and the tying run on base with no outs. Catcher Dean Moir caught the runner stealing at second base to get out No. 1, but the next two batters reached on groundball singles.
The Red Devils then got out No. 2 on a grounder that advanced the runners to second and third.
"This is a big spot," Cashdollar said, recalling the moment. "I was struggling with command that day. I think I went down 3-0 to a couple guys, and (was down to) this batter, too. And then all of a sudden, I could start hitting my corners and spots really well. So, I brought it back to 3-2, and then last pitch, fastball inside corner, caught him looking – and that was huge for the team."
Cashdollar also memorably logged four scoreless innings without giving up a hit against Wisconsin-Platteville. Primarily relying on his curveball, he posted a season-high five strikeouts.
"I think curveball command was a huge difference this year," he said.
Cashdollar, who studies business with an emphasis on marketing, is a baseball lifer at the age of 22. He went to his first game when he was only a week old and grew up immersed in the game.
Kyle is the third Cashdollar to play for EC, following his older brothers Benji (2008-09) and Timmy (2008-11).
He had to redshirt his first season after undergoing ulnar nerve transposition surgery (performed by St. Louis Cardinals doctor George Paletta). But after recovery, he made 45 pitching appearances for EC over the next four years.
For the past three years, Cashdollar has enjoyed watching the program transform under the leadership of head coach Jerry Rashid. Everything from facility upgrades to team accountability and expectations, Cashdollar says, has been a night-and-day difference.
"It builds confidence in the team," Cashdollar said of the team's culture. "This year, we were shooting for .500 for the first time in school history, and I think we would have had a real good chance."
The NCAA's approval of an additional year of eligibility for seniors who participate in spring sports leaves the door open for a possible return for one more go-around in maroon and gold.
"I've got to weigh all my options," Cashdollar said. "But we'll see."