180601_sports_Hietpas_mustangs

Mustangs pitcher Joseph Hietpas delivers a pitch to home plate during the third inning of their home opener against the Midwest A’s on Wednesday at Phil Welch Stadium.

Joseph Hietpas wasn’t ready to put down the baseball after finishing his senior season at Northwest Missouri State.

The former Bearcat decided to join the St. Joseph Mustangs this summer to continue his baseball career and new manager Johnny Coy was more than happy to welcome him onto the pitching staff.

“He’s probably the oldest guy that we have on staff, he’s the most accomplished guy that we have on the staff,” Coy said. “A lot of the younger guys are looking to him to lead us and set the example on the field and how to perform.”

With the experience that Hietpas brings to the table, Coy trusted the Northwest graduate to take the mound for the season opener Wednesday night in front of another impressive Phil Welch Stadium crowd.

“It was incredible,” Hietpas said. “Seeing the 4,500 fans that showed up. Everyone was loud and cheering right away. It was a lot of fun for me.”

After a slow start, the former First Team All-MIAA selection struck out seven batters and allowed just one run in five innings to earn him first win of the summer as the Mustangs beat the Midwest A’s 4-3.

“He was probably a little too amped up with the crowd, he probably hadn’t pitched in front of this many people before in his life,” Coy said. “He settled down, he’s a bulldog. We know what he’s capable of doing.”

During his senior season at Northwest, Hietpas helped the Bearcats reach new heights. Northwest captured the program’s first MIAA regular-season title in 35 years with Hietpas leading the way.

“My junior and senior year, our team accomplished a lot of stuff that we set out from the time my group was freshmen,” Hietpas said. “We were really happy that we could put Northwest baseball back on the map and give ourselves a chance at a regional this year.”

Hietpas did plenty of winning during his Northwest career. This summer, he hopes to help the Mustangs continue their winning ways.

“There is such a great tradition of winning here for the last nine years,” Hietpas said. “We’re just excited to be a part of a team that could (win a MINK League championship) for a sixth time.”

And after the season, he will decide on whether to continue playing baseball. But Hietpas has all summer to decide. For now, he has other things on his mind for right now.

“Right now, I’m just focused on making baseball fun again for me and just coming out here and competing every day, having fun with this team and seeing where this takes me,” Hietpas said.

John Zetmeir can be reached at john.zetmeir@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowZetmeir.