Blevins Could Continue To Rewrite Record Book

As the Bearcat baseball squad approaches the Big East part of its schedule, Bearcat sophomore pitching ace Steve Blevins is already approaching a Cincinnati career pitching record for wins.

When Steve Blevins from Lawrence County High School in Louisa, Kentucky came to Cincinnati as a true freshman in 2005, it didn't take long for him to get thrown to the wolves, or in his case, the Gators.  Blevins made his first college start in Gainesville, Florida against the preseason #1 ranked team, the Florida Gators, a squad that had been the national runner-up to Texas the previous season.  The rural Kentuckian was no match for the mighty Gators as Florida won the game 10-0, and things didn't improve the follwoing week as North Carolina A & T scored 12 runs against the Bearcats in Steve's next start for a second consecutive loss.  But all Blevins had to do was rely on his past to get through the future.  At Lawrence County High School, Blevins made the varsity baseball team as an 8th grader and performed well enough to be chosen all-conference and all-area, a feat he accomplished five straight seasons.  That experience gave him confidence that he would also fare well at Cincinnati.  Steve explained,   "It got me used to playing early.  I'm used to playing younger than everybody else, and it just carried over in college."


After that rough start to his college career, better days were ahead as Steve suspected.  He won his next three decisions and posted a 9-5 record for the year.  Those 9 wins set a freshman record at Cincinnati easily breaking Bruce Raible's old mark of seven victories, but the plaudits didn't stop there.  Blevins, along with fellow Bearcat freshman Josh Harrison, was named to Collegiate Baseball's Freshman All-American team, and Steve was also recognized by the Big East Conference by making 2nd team All-Big East.  


This season began much like last year's.  Blevins lost his initial three decisions of the year although he didn't give up any more than 4 runs in any of those loses, and like last year, he's pitched very well since.  His best effort came last Friday against Cleveland State when he pitched 8 innings of scoreless ball to take his record to 2-3.  Blevins now has 11 career wins as a Bearcat, and the record is 19 shared by Tim Burman (1972-74), B. J. Borsa (2000-03), Carmine Lemma (1958-61) and Curtus Moak (1998-01).  Assuming Blevins stays healthy and the Bearcats qualify for the Big East tournament, Steve should have at least 11 more starts in 2006.  Could he own the record outright in only his sophomore year? 


As a high schooler, Blevins was more than just a thrower.  He hit .419 with 210 RBI.  Like most pitchers, he jokingly longs for the day that he can once again step up to the plate.  "I give them a hard time about that, but I know that was high school and this is different.  It was fun and I enjoyed hitting so I still give them a hard time about it, especially when we don't score a lot of runs.  I tell them they need to get me an AB or something."  Although Steve was joking, there is an element of truth to his being the hard luck pitcher that doesn't get much offensive support.  The Bearcats scored only 8 runs in Steve's three losses to start this season, but Blevins says it doesn't bother him.  "Either way, you want to go out there and do the best you can whether your team's going to score two runs or ten runs.  It really doesn't bother me.  They're (his teammates) going to score more runs.  It's just a matter of time."


No pitcher can be successful with only one pitch, and Steve has recently added to his arsenal.  "I have a fastball, curve, change and slider.  The fastball is probably my favorite pitch.  I just learned a slider this fall, and it's probably one of my better pitches now, probably my strikeout pitch.  I feel good throwing it too."


In addition to being the Bearcats' ace pitcher, Blevins is also valuable because he's capable of eating up innings and keeping the bullpen fresh for the remaining two games of the weekend series.  Last year, Steve led the entire Big East with 101 innings.  The next closest workhorse for Cincinnati was Dan Osterbrock with 61.2 innings pitched.  Some coaches want to get the opposing pitcher over the 100 pitch mark as quickly as possible to take advantage of a tiring arm, but Blevins feels he actually gets stronger later in the game.  "I think everybody's different.  I've pitched my whole life, and there are several games that I've thrown over 100 pitches.  In most of those games, I felt just as strong or stronger toward the end than the beginning.  I get stronger as I go."


There are a few major adjustments for pitchers going from high school to college.  In high school, a star pitcher will throw every third, fourth or fifth day, but in college, an ace will throw only on Friday to start a weekend series.  Steve admits it's been an adjustment.  "It's like everything else.  You have to get used to it, but I do get bored sitting over there and tell them to get me an at-bat or something.  It's definitely different from high school."


Landing Blevins was a major coup for Coach Cleary as Steve identified his three finalists.  "It came down to here, N. C. State and Oklahoma State."  Geography played a role in Cincinnati landing Blevins.  "I didn't want to go too far from home because my family will come watch me play pretty much every week.  My friends and old coaches like to come, and I can get in the car and go home whenever I want."  Louisa, Kentucky is about a three hour drive from Cincinnati.


When comparing Marge Schott Stadium to other venues in the Big East Conference, Steve believes there's none better.  "It's one of the best.  I can't think of one that's better.  Louisville has one similar to this so I'd say it's us and Louisville."


Blevins will be in action this Friday at Marge Schott Stadium as the Bearcats look to extend their three game winning streak against Chicago State.  First pitch is 4 o'clock.

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