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During highs and lows, Eagles closer Evans enjoys pitching with game on the line


No one can accuse Rylan Evans of getting big-headed by being designated Nixa’s closer out of the bullpen this year.

Evans actually could have benefitted by having a bigger head during his relief outing last Thursday at Branson. The right-handed senior gained his second save on the season, even while having trouble keeping his hat from slipping as he threw home.

“My hat kept coming off, so I was having to hold it,” Evans said. “It's kind of funny, this is the first year that’s ever happened to me. I might have to get a tighter (hat) or grow some more hair.”

Evans finished off Nixa’s 3-2 COC-opening victory by striking out the final batter with the bases loaded. He entered the game with runners on second and third and two outs and promptly hit a batter with his first pitch to load the bases.

Experience had already taught Evans to remain level-headed and look ahead, not back.

“The mentality is next pitch — three fast balls got the job done,” he said.

It was a rewarding save for Evans, who has endured dramatic ups and downs that most closers pitch through. He suffered the loss in Nixa’s lone defeat, a 2-1, eight-inning setback at the hands of Springfield Catholic.

“I've got it out of my mind. But I don't let it blow over,” Evans said of dealing with a loss or blown save. “I go back and watch film about what I was doing wrong and why it didn't go right.”

Evans entered this season as a starting pitcher candidate. Upon going to the bullpen, he’s relished the chance to pitch with the game on the line.

“I went into this year thinking I was going to be a starter. Going back to the bullpen, I'm getting back to the mindset of I need to do a job, do it well and I don't have five or six innings to play around with,” he said. “You have to amp yourself up. I love the adrenaline rush you get.”

Coach Logan Hughes and the rest of the Eagles are confident in Evans’ resilience.

"He's battled through some stuff,” Hughes said. “You’re going to struggle sometimes and not be very good. Sometimes, you feel like you're going out there and doing your best, but it keeps kicking you in the teeth. But you keep showing up, keep working and being a good teammate and then stuff happens like it did where he got a strikeout to end the game for us.”

“He's had some rough outings, but showed right there what he is made of,” third baseman Broden Mabe said. “I’m proud of him. It's not how you start, it's how you finish.”

Evans was happy to help out fellow reliever Brayton Tangora, who had been touched for four hits and two runs in the seventh.

“I've got all the confidence in the world in Brayton,” Evans said. “I knew if I needed to come (in), I was going to be able to pick him up, just like when I struggle I know he can pick me up. We have each other's back. We're always going to find a way to win, that's what we do.

"There are going to be days in which we don't have our stuff,” he added. “But we have a great bullpen. There's not a single person I wouldn't put in that situation.”