In his first two seasons with the Cincinnati Bearcats, Jarod Yoakam pitched plenty but he didn’t pitch all that well. In 2015 as a freshman he posted a 5.27 ERA in 42 2⁄3 innings out of the bullpen. He improved slightly in 2016, finishing with a 5.16 ERA in 45 1⁄3 frames of work.
Then he stepped up and made some major strides in 2017 despite a slightly lighter workload. In 37 1⁄3 innings he managed to record a 3.62 ERA while setting a career-high in strikeouts (29) and a career-low in walks (20).
Now that he’s a senior, the upward trend of his production has continued and to a dominant degree. Yoakam has yet to allow a single earned run this season, despite throwing more innings than any other pitcher who has not made a start. In those 17 2⁄3 innings, he has already struck out 18 batters, equating to a K/9 rate that is not only aesthetically pleasing (9.17), but is far and away better than his work in his first three seasons (4.88). He also has allowed an opponent batting average of just .197 and is walking fewer batters as well (eight).
Yoakam is a key to UC’s bullpen because of this success. Actually, scratch that, he is UC’s bullpen. With all due respect to Doug Lowe II, who is having a fine season of his own (1.64 ERA in 11 innings), Yoakam’s right-handed offerings have been extraordinary. He has taken a major step forward as a pitcher who was clearly expected to be a key contributor but not one that is this effective.
Beyond the fancy ERA and pile of strikeouts, Yoakam has also supplied head coach Scott Googins with a versatile arm he can turn to in any number of situations. Yoakam has thrown at least 20 pitches six times this year and thrown more than an inning in seven instances. He also has three saves on the year, which makes sense since he is clearly the best bet to get the final outs of a game. Those three saves are only two fewer than he had in his first three seasons combined.
All this is to say that Yoakam is enjoying a splendid senior year, leading the bullpen and being a big reason the Bearcats are fighting in the middle of the American Athletic Conference rather than languishing in the basement. His steady progression during his career is what has led to this.