Talented bullpen is saving grace for Arizona Wildcats baseball
During Arizona baseball’s run to the national championship last season, the Wildcats had an efficient offense, a dominant starting rotation led by eventual sixth-round draft pick Kurt Heyer and a shaky bullpen.
With Heyer gone to the minor leagues, the 2013 starting rotation has struggled to find consistency and a firm identity within the Pac-12 conference. This time, though, it’s a talented bullpen that has helped the Wildcats stay within arm’s reach of a conference title.
“Oh God, no,” said head coach Andy Lopez when asked if he was worried about the depth of his pen. “We have some talented young men coming out of that bullpen. I’m probably most happy with their competitiveness and execution.”
Arizona’s bullpen is predominately led by three pitchers: redshirt junior Augey Bill, freshman Tyger Talley and sophomore closer Mathew Troupe. Together they have a combined Earned Run Average of 1.50. The only other bullpens in the conference that match that sort of productivity are Oregon State and Oregon’s, and they are ranked No. 7 and No. 9 in the nation, respectively.
Drew Gyorke / Arizona Daily Wildcat Freshman Tyger Talley pitching against Cal on Sunday. The Wildcats won 5-4 to cap off a 6 game win streak on Sunday.
None of the three Wildcat pitchers have worked enough innings to be considered for any top pitching awards, but relievers aren’t graded on longevity. The situations they’ve pitched out of have been key for Arizona this season.
To go along with the low ERA, the three relief pitchers have a combined record of 9-0 with a WHIP of 0.98, by far the best on the team.
As of late Talley (4-0) has been the most useful pitcher out of the bullpen, with all four of his victories coming in the team’s current six-game winning streak.
Talley also proved he has the stamina to go multiple innings, starting two weekday games this season. In his second start of the season, against Texas Tech on March 6, Talley threw a no-hitter through the first five innings before allowing two hits and one earned run in 6.0 innings pitched.
He’s only a freshman, but Talley isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, and he’s done so in many tight situations this year. A starting gig may be in his future, but for now Talley is happy coming out of the bullpen.
“I want to do whatever’s best for the team and whatever they want me to do,” Talley said. “No matter the situation, I’ll be amped up and excited to conquer it.”
While the freshman brings more fierce competitiveness onto the mound, the older Bill is intimidating in his own way.
Bill is an aerospace engineering major who turned down Harvard to attend Arizona. Equal to his brains is his physical presence out on the mound, standing 6-foot-9 tall while throwing from left side of the mound.
Bill (3-0) holds the team’s lowest ERA at 0.93 and has only given up two earned runs in 19.1 innings pitched.
Lopez uses the redshirt junior more as a set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings, rarely allowing Bill to go more than one frame. But game in and game out, Bill has been the consistent, dependable bridge to get the ball to Troupe.
“We’re a great bullpen and a great group of guys that really work together,” Bill said. “We’re all confident when we go out there that we’re going to get the job done and I know [Lopez] is too.”
Like many closers, Troupe came to the Arizona program hoping to be a starter. After getting a few opportunities last season, he proved to be more effective as a reliever, so Lopez began bringing him out to close the game.
Because of his background as a starter, Troupe has the ability to work two, sometimes three full innings, depending on the rest he received in games prior.
He also has a personality. Troupe made headlines last season by growing out his beard during the team’s post-season run. Even though he admits to absolutely hating the beard, he said he feels the need to keep it.
And fittingly so, as the beard matches his prescription Oakley glasses, flame-throwing 93 mph fastball and hard-cutting breaking ball perfectly.
Troupe (2-0) can be torture at the end of games, routinely putting the game in jeopardy. He’s made games so close that Lopez has even jokingly said he considered smoking to relieve the stress. But in the end, Troupe always seems to get the job done, recording eight saves to go along with a team-high 36 strikeouts in just 23.1 innings pitched.
“Coming out to get the save is a lot of fun and gets the juices going,” Troupe said. “Sometimes maybe I need to calm myself down, but I’m so confident in the coaches and my defense that I know I can go out there and get the job done.”