Through nine starts this year, junior right-handed pitcher Robby Howell has shown that he is one of the best pitchers in the country.
The Fort White, Florida, native has been the Knights go-to pitcher on Saturdays and has yet to be charged with a loss this season.
“[Howell] is doing all the things in baseball that make you successful,” head coach Terry Rooney said. “He has got a level of confidence about him when he is going out there to the mound every single day, and he is not panicking. The biggest thing is he is learning to split pitches, throw one pitch at a time and trust his defense.”
In his third year at UCF, Howell has grown into his spot in the rotation and has the numbers of a great pitcher. In all of Division I baseball, he has the seventh-best earned run average with 1.14, and is tied for third in the nation in wins with a 7-0 record.
As if those numbers weren’t enough, he has also pitched 63.1 innings this season, giving him an average of 7.01 innings pitched per start to go along with 42 strikeouts he has collected thus far.
“Through the years, obviously I have matured, but I would say we play great defense,” Howell said. “That’s always the plan when you come out and pitch, trying to stay down in the zone and, when we get to advantage counts, trying to punch guys out.”
Through his success, he has shrugged off some tough innings and regathered himself to continue the battle. Helping his cause has been the defense behind him in the field. The Knights are tied for seventh in all of Division I baseball with 41 double plays turned this season.
This is facilitated by key players in the formula, junior middle infielders Ryan Crile, Kam Gellinger and Brennan Bozeman.
“It’s easy to go deep in a game when you are turning three or four double plays in a game,” Howell said.
With some injuries on offense early in the season to players such as freshman Matthew Mika and junior Matt Diorio, Howell has been key to securing victories, focusing on keeping opposing runners off the bases rather than seeing an abundance of Knights cross the plate.
“We talk a lot about just being able to separate pitches,” Rooney said. “To me, the biggest difference between Robby this year and last year and why he has been so consistent is one, he is pitching down in the zone, and number two, he is learning to separate pitches.”
The Knights are 7-2 when Howell pitches. The team’s two losses came in one-run games in which Howell didn’t receive a decision.
“He is always going to fight, he is always going to scrap, and things are not always going to go his way,” junior outfielder Eli Putnam said. “But he always bounces back and throws up zeros for us and always gives us a great chance to win. It is really relaxing as a hitter knowing that even in close games, we only have to score a few runs to win.”
In the midst of conference play, the Knights seem to have found their three-man weekend rotation in sophomore right-hander Cre Finfrock, Howell and junior right-hander Juan Pimentel.
With the bulk of conference play still yet to be played, the pitching staff will need to be at its best as the Knights look to charge to the top of the American. Currently, they sit at 20-18 in the overall record books, and tied for third in the AAC conference standings with a 5-4 record.
The next test for the Knights will be this weekend when Tulane comes to Jay Bergman Field on Friday for a three-game conference series.
Matthew Saunders is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future.