When you are team that struggles to hit and score as much as the Cincinnati Bearcats, you have to find other ways to put yourself in a position to win. The Bearcats may still be hovering below .500 this season, but they are 8-7 in American Athletic Conference play, showing that they are capable of competing down the stretch. If they are going to do more than that, they’ll need every advantage they can get. As it just so happens, they might have found a pair in their starting rotation.
Early in the season, the Bearcats were able to rely on Nathan Kroger and Garrett Schoenle for their best starts, but Kroger hasn’t pitched since March and Schoenle has a 10.13 ERA in his last four appearances and has more walks (21) than innings pitched (13 1/3 ) in that time.
For most teams, having two exceptional starters and then losing them both would be too big a setback from which to recover. The Bearcats have not fallen to such a fate thanks to the recent work of David Orndorff and Evan Shawver.
Orndorff is a redshirt senior who has spent the bulk of his career pitching out of the bullpen for the Bearcats. This year, however, he has been given more chances to pitch as a starter, with five of his six total appearances of the starting variety. With the way he has pitched in his last few outings, there’s every reason to believe that he has earned himself a permanent spot in the rotation.
He has a 4.50 ERA acorss 28 total innings, but in his last three starts, he has produced a 1.80 ERA across 20 frames, including an absolute masterpiece against Houston last week when he completed eight innings. In that time he allowed only one earned run and struck out five as the Bearcats earned a 3-2 victory. Speaking of victories, the Bearcats have been collecting a whole bunch of them when Orndorff is on the mound, going 5-1 in games in which he has appeared.
As if discovering one ace at this point in the season wasn’t enough, the Bearcats have also been getting fantastic efforts from a player at a much different point of his career. Shawver is a freshman left-hander who had not pitched more than five innings at the collegiate level before April 13. Then he tossed seven frames in a win against UCF, striking out 12 batters in the process. He then proved that effort was no fluke, tallying seven innings and eight strikeouts this past weekend against Houston. That swing and miss ability has been the key for Shawver, who has struck out 49 batters in 42 total innings this season.
All those strikeouts would be pretty meaningless if Shawver wasn’t able to pair it with solid run prevention. Even when’s he had his share of erratic pitching, including a season-high five walks against UConn on April 6, Shawver has been able to mitigate the damage by overpowering hitters. In return, he has slowly lowered his ERA. In fact, he has the same mark as Orndorff currently (4.50), powered by a mark of 3.21 over his last two starts.
Baseball is a game where small sample warnings can dilute any positive analysis. For all we know, Orndorff and Shawver are just in the midst of a hot streak that will go cold just as quickly as it started. However, for right now, the Bearcats have been dealt a pair of aces and as anyone who has played poker before knows, that’s a great way to start a game.