Ruffin Brings Toughness Each Friday

Over the past two seasons, there have been some ups-and-downs on the Texas pitching staff. Sophomore right-hander Chance Ruffin has been the one constant. Burnt Orange Beat talks with Ruffin and Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson about the tough as nails Friday starter.

As a freshman, Ruffin quickly became the leader of the Longhorns' staff, posting an 8-3 record with a 1.96 earned-run average. During his start against Texas A&M, Texas fans got a taste of the competitive nature and toughness that made Ruffin so successful from the outset.

Ruffin pitched that game with a blister, which opened up in the early innings.

"A blister is a big deal," said Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson. "You can't imagine throwing with a blister, how much pain it is. Because you start dropping your arm slot and you do a lot of different things. It's pretty tough."

Ruffin didn't just stay in the game -- he went on to pitch seven innings, holding the ninth-ranked Aggies to just one run during a 5-2 victory.

"I think it was the third inning when every pitch I threw, the ball came back with blood on it," Ruffin said. "It was just kind of a mental thing where you try not to let it get to you. You need to make the pitch and it only hurts for a couple of seconds, so you wear it and go to the next pitch."

Johnson, who recruited Ruffin out of Lake Travis High School, could see the toughness before the pitcher came to the 40 Acres.

"It was on my third or fourth trip that I was recruiting," said Johnson of Ruffin's recruitment. "I went out to Joplin and watched him pitch and I think he threw a one-hitter. It was 100 degrees outside and he just got after hit pitch-by-pitch."

This season, Ruffin has continued to lead the extremely talented Longhorns staff. With a 6-2 record and a 2.66 ERA, the hurler is the Friday starter on a Texas club that leads the nation with a 2.37 team ERA.

Still, Ruffin isn't completely satisfied.

"It's not quite up to the expectations that I had going in," Ruffin said about his season. "For the most part, I'm going out every day and trying to give my team an opportunity to win. The stuff has been there, but I've kind of been running into trouble in the middle of the game."

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Ruffin has been the club's most reliable starter, averaging just under seven innings per start this season.

Chance's father -- Bruce Ruffin -- starred at the University of Texas before going on to a 12-year Major League career with the Phillies, Brewers and Rockies. Johnson believes Bruce is part of why Chance has been so well-prepared to pitch at the collegiate level.

"He's ahead of the game a little bit," Johnson said. "Bruce pitched here. He understands the expectations of this place, and Bruce has really set that tone for him and helped him with that. It's big for him, knowing that going into it."

Ruffin entered his sophomore campaign without much room for improvement results-wise, but he thinks he has continued to develop as a pitcher.

"I've really developed a consistency in having two breaking balls, where as last year it was either one or the other," Ruffin explained. "My fastball movement, I can get it to move right or left this year. I've also got a changeup now. It's kind of working -- at least I can throw it for a strike, and last year I couldn't."

The Longhorns will be relying on Ruffin down the stretch this season. The club's other two weekend starters -- Cole Green and Brandon Workman -- have been inconsistent in Big 12 play.

Ruffin is a pitcher that thrives on pressure, and he looks forward to the stretch drive.

"I'm really expecting to improve every day," he said. "My arm has been feeling great. Every day it feels better and my stuff is getting tighter. Really, towards the end of the season I'm hoping to hold every team to one or no runs because I know that's the kind of performance we're going to need in Regionals, Super Regionals, and Omaha.

"That's our ultimate goal and that's the way I'm going to have to pitch if I want to be the number one guy."

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