Man of Steele: Reivers’ 1B is tournament MVP

Iowa Western’s Keaton Steele is congratulated Saturday night by his teammates after winning the Preston Walker Most Valuable Player award after the Reivers’ 6-5 victory over San Jacinto in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series. Steele went 2 for 2 with a home run and three RBI and picked up the save for Iowa Western.

Keaton Steele was so nervous Friday night he was hyperventilating and had trouble getting to sleep.

Saturday morning, the Iowa Western Community College sophomore couldn’t eat breakfast.

“One of our pitchers kind of talked me off the ledge,” Steele said, exaggerating, but just a bit. “I was pretty nervous. I went out to breakfast this morning with my dad. I ate like a half of a pancake. I couldn’t eat. My teammates and coaches told me to work out. I tried to work out some anxiety and stress.”

Sophomore pitcher and friend A.J. Gaura was with him last night and tried to calm Steele down.

“We call him the old man because he’s in bed by 10 o’clock every night,” Gaura said. “He was up until 1 o’clock in the morning. He was nervous. All I could do was smile and tell him it’s going to be all right. The sun’s going to come up tomorrow win or lose.”

Steele did more than calm down. He gave Iowa Western a spark.

The sophomore from St. Joseph, Mo., went 2 for 2 with a two-run home run, three RBI and picked up the save in relief to earn the Preston Walker MVP award in the 2012 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series. The Reivers rallied to defeat San Jacinto (Texas) College-North 6-5 on Saturday night at Suplizio Field.

“I talk to all my kids about deserving,” Iowa Western coach Marc Rardin said. “It doesn’t mean we were deserving to win this, but you do the right thing all the time. Keaton Steele does that. For two years he has been the first one to the ballpark, even when he was on the DL, the first one there, he thrives on it.”

Steele missed most of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury.

“I heard all the stories about the guys in 2010 that won it,” Steele said. “I wanted that so bad. After I got hurt, I knew I had to wait a while. I texted coach Rardin in the summer and told him I wanted a ring.”

Steele came to Iowa Western as a third baseman, but the Reivers had Damek Tomscha back, but Rardin eventually worked him into a key role.

“We moved him to first; tried to start him (pitching) early in the season and he wasn’t healthy,” Rardin said. “That’s why his numbers were deceiving. I kept telling people, don’t get caught up in that. What he did there at the end is just what he’s done.”

Steele got off to a slow start in the tournament and was hitting .375 entering Saturday’s championship. He finished hitting .444 in five games with four RBI.

His two-run home run in the second inning gave the Reivers an early 2-1 lead, and more importantly got him to relax.

“The same kid that talked me down, A.J. Guara, he said, he’s leaving a first pitch fastball up in the zone, so be looking for it,” said Steele, who hasn’t decided where he’ll play next year. “I’m a fastball hitter. I tried to put a good swing on it.

“Every game, he’s like a scouting guru. He’ll come out and watch the games. He’ll tell me what they’re throwing and how they’re throwing. He’s the steady voice in my head that keeps me sane.”

Steele pitched the bottom of the ninth and retired the side for his second save of the tournament.

“Closing is one of the toughest things to do,” Gaura said. “He’s mentally unbelievable.

“He’s one of those guys that likes to joke around off the field and is all business on the field.”


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