Freshman starting pitcher Mitch Pattishall took the loss in Saturday's 4-1 defeat against No. 9 Louisville but hardly walks away the loser in the big picture of UC baseball.
CINCINNATI - Buried in the bullpen beyond the left-field power alley, 19-year-old Mitch Pattishall warmed up only moments after the chaotic aftermath of two of the best teams in Major League Baseball spilling into tense extra innings.
For a freshman pitcher with only 18 innings of college baseball under his belt, following their lead onto the largest stage of the Bearcats season at Great American Ball Park with the ninth-ranked team in the country in the opposing dugout left him searching for breathing techniques.
He could handle warming up in the bullpen. The tall fences and focus on stretching out kept blinders blocking the 42,000-seat stadium.
Once reaching the mound, however, there was nowhere to hide.
"It wasn't too bad warming up in the bullpen, it was just me, (catcher Woody Wallace) and coach down there, so it didn't bother me," Pattishall said. "But once we got out there it really set in.
"It was a huge stage."
The landscape can be overwhelming for 10-year MLB veterans, much less a pitcher like Pattishall who last year at this time was hurling for Pendleton Heights High School in games played in the rural expanses outside Indianapolis.
"He was, as you might guess, really nervous," Bearcats coach Brian Cleary said.
Something funny happened as Pattishall endured those nervous moments in the first inning on Saturday. He started dealing.
He gave up but one run through the first five innings and left a crowd of about 4,500 at GABP wondering if UC could pull off an upset of the preseason favorite to win the Big East conference this season. While his breaking ball didn't snap into the strike zone as much as he would have liked, he found ways to make outs.
Cleary didn't hesitate to give an inexperienced freshman this stage when setting the rotation on Wednesday. He knew Pattishall. He came as one of the top recruits in a class lauded by Baseball America as among the best in the Midwest Region. Cleary believed this kid could handle it.
In the end, a rough sixth inning and the inability to spot his breaking ball ran him off giving up four runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 as part of a 4-1 defeat. He struck out one and walked one facing 24 batters. But this game wasn't about the two hit batsmen and walk from the final inning. For Pattishall, and in many ways the near future of this program, this was about rising to the occasion during a trial by fire which may not be rivaled in his UC career. Almost certainly not this season.
After six innings of guts and survival, he showed his potential to take the ball whenever and wherever UC these Cats need a bulldog on the mound.
"He's been pitching really well," Cleary said. "I felt comfortable he'd go out there and compete. He's been throwing the ball over the plate. As he gets more fine with command and can locate better I think he's going to be a guy that will be the weekend starter that you are after."
He looked it Saturday, despite the admitted nerves. In fact, once he settled in as the game wore on, the freshman was able to soak in an experience of a lifetime. Hard to feel like a freshman anymore after passing an advanced class in bigtime baseball.
"This gives me a lot more experience," Pattishall said. "I still have a lot to learn. They capitalized on the mistakes I made and I just got to take that back and try to work on those and try to have success in the future."
Pattishall didn't leave GABP with the urban legend stories you hear of a player tossing his cookies before a big game or needing someone to talk him off the ledge. His catcher, the junior Wallace, knows Pattishall as a "relaxed guy." That said, he thought he imagined he might need to play the role of counselor today.
Instead, all he had to do was enjoy the blossoming of a young pitcher before his eyes.
"He controlled himself pretty well," Wallace said. "All I did was encourage him."
Pattishall returned the favor by leaving everyone else encouraged about the bright future for this prospect.
"I think he did a pretty good job considering," Cleary said. "He kept us in it; he's going to be really good."
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