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An ace with a poker face

Ryan Orr playing baseball.

Baseball is a game of numbers, and for Kalamazoo College's right handed pitcher Ryan Orr - so far the numbers have been kind. Five wins, zero losses, 42 innings pitched, 30 strikeouts, three complete games, two saves, a 1.71 ERA, an opposing hitters average of .200, and only four walks allowed sort of kind. It goes without saying these numbers have been a huge factor for a Hornet team that is currently 10-6 in league play, second in the MIAA, and on pace for the best finish in school history. Maybe the most impressive of all the numbers is 19 - Orr's age. Ryan is only a freshman. He's well aware of how impressive these numbers are and how dominant his performances have been, but he's also smart enough to realize he's barely made an indent on his young collegiate career.

"I didn't imagine how the season would go before I started," Orr said. "I take it day by day and try not to look too far ahead. I'm not imagining throwing the last pitch in any type of championship game even though in the end that's my goal."

That's a goal Orr shares with head coach Mike Ott. Ott and his connections with various summer leagues is one of the main reasons Orr decided to commit to Kalamazoo. Ott has helped Orr secure a spot in a the prestigious Northwoods league this summer in Wisconsin.

"Most freshmen are not ready for the big moment or role, but Ryan has been since the first day he stepped on campus," Ott said.
The other main reason Orr ended up at K instead of potentially at a Division I or II school is because he wanted to be more than just a pitcher.

"A lot of the DI schools didn't look at me as much because I wanted to be an impact guy right away and I also wanted the opportunity to be a dual guy, which I am here, playing second base and pitching," Orr said. "That was another one of the main reasons I wanted to come here."
While being the No.1 guy in the rotation and competing for playing time at second base, Ryan has also had to find time to keep up with Kalamazoo's arduous academic schedule.

"I guess that's what the bus rides are for," Orr laughed. "You've got to try and get back the time you miss on the bus or on the weekends. You've got to do what you've got to do. Some nights you'll want to go to bed after a hard practice but you'll have to stay up until 2 a.m. doing homework. You just need to find a balance."

With baseball season not starting until March, Orr had six months off season to adjust to the college lifestyle. He credits this as one of the reasons he's been able to come out of the gates so smoothly.
"I trust in my skills enough now," Orr said. "I think the learning curve for me happened in the fall and winter with Coach Ott and getting on the system he wants us to be on. Now it's just about getting on the field and doing what I do."

Even though at times Orr makes it look easy when he's staring down batters from the mound, he said it's been a whole different ball game than what he was used to in the past.
"In high school I could pretty much blow a fastball by whoever was up, and in college they're already looking for fastballs on the outer half to drive the other way," Orr said. "Now I really have to go inside and mix a lot of offspeed stuff in. That has been the biggest adjustment for me."

Ryan said pitchers Aaron Schwark (sophomore) and Adam McDowell (senior) have been guys who've really helped ease his adjustment to college baseball. Whether they're giving him tips on how to sharpen his curveball or hold runners on, or just picking him up vocally after a tough day, he says their influence has been invaluable. Head coach Mike Ott also noted that Ryan has really grown on the mound while working with Hornet pitching coach Mike Spiegel.

Ryan's also had to adjust to being a rookie again. Even though he carries such an important role on the team, he can't escape that he's a freshman. This means he can't escape freshman duties such as carrying the catcher's gear, bat bags, and baseball buckets. Ryan takes it all in stride and knows it's tradition and part of the game.
After all baseball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. Ryan's favorite player to watch growing up was Ken Griffey, Jr. because he saw how much fun and how happy he was to play everyday. Ryan has fond memories with his father, who played ball at Hillsdale, watching games with him as a child.
"Ever since I was really young I'd stay up really late with him, you know weekends, weeknights, late Sunday night games," Orr said. "I remember my mom would have to get after us because I'd have school the next day."
These days instead of he and his dad being on the couch, Ryan's on the mound and his dad's in the bleachers. Ryan said his mom, dad, girlfriend, and his girlfriend's family are at pretty much every game. He said he loves knowing they're watching him and will be there to talk to him after the game no matter what.
More and more people are going to be waiting to talk to Orr after his games if he continues to pitch like he's pitching and the team continues to win.
"This year our goal is to get a ring, whether that's a league championship outright or winning the league tournament," Orr said. "Then we want to play in the NCAA Tournament and do some damage there. Year by year we're going to want to get deeper and deeper into the NCAA Tournament and eventually we want to win a national championship."
However for the next few weeks Ryan will have to focus on playing day by day and having fun just like Griffey. He'll have to focus on being a 19 year old college student and not imagining what might or might not happen. However, if you look at the numbers, it looks like the Hornets will be playing in at least one big game this year, and when coach Ott puts the ball in the freshman phenom's hands, he'll be ready. Even scarier for the rest of the MIAA - he has more than three years to get better.