“All hands on deck!”
I imagine that was something that former Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Ty Neal said or exclaimed more than once during this past season. Whether that’s accurate or just my mind getting away from me is up for debate, but the fact is, the Bearcats didn’t employ the most traditional of pitching strategies in 2017. With the starting rotation not panning out as expected, there was a need for every arm to be ready to go at all times in the game.
A perfect example of this is the workload put on David Orndorff. Easily the most consistently solid pitcher on the staff, he threw 63 1⁄3 innings split between starting, middle relief and closing. In fact, he started in eight games but also collected seven saves, tying for a team-high with 21 appearances and a having the team low in ERA all to himself (3.41). Orndorff was one of 10 pitchers to make at least one start. But we already talked about the starters.
So who were the bullpen stalwarts outside of Orndorff?
Jarod Yoakam is the primary answer. The junior made 26 appearances as a sophomore and he continued his reign as a reliable arm who could take a workload from the pen in 2017. In 21 appearances (37 1⁄3 innings) he pitched to a 3.62 ERA, striking out 29 batters and walking an even 20. Tristan Hammans was another full-time reliever. He finished 30 2⁄3 innings but did not avoid many bats, allowing 31 hits and striking out only 16. As you might expect, that meant his ERA didn’t fit into the stellar category (4.40).
A number of players who were sometimes starters also ate up innings in relief. Reese Robinson only had the one start, but his 3.60 ERA exploits were littered across a total of 30 innings and 14 appearances. Nathan Kroger, a freshman like Robinson, tossed 34 2⁄3 innings and got into games far more often as a reliever (10) than a starter (four). His 4.15 ERA was not ace-like, but it was one of the better marks on the team. Cam Alldred only started twice, but he pitched 17 games besides that and was somewhat effective (4.33 ERA), even if he walked more batters (18) than he struck out (16). A.J. Kullman should have just been a full-time reliever, but he was called in to start four times. With a 5.06 ERA he was clearly not the best pitcher on the team, but he did eat up innings (58 2/3).
There was also the experiment the Bearcats underwent with J.T. Perez, when they tried using him as a reliever for a bit, but his efforts didn’t translate precisely.
Outside of that group, players like Tanner Schimmoeller, Clayton Colvin, Doug Lowe II, Cal Jarrett and Isaac Olson got minor auditions.