Norwin graduate Loutsenhizer has strong close to baseball career
Ryan Loutsenhizer's first foray as a relief pitcher didn't come by design.
With the Point Park baseball team locked in an extra-inning game with Asbury (Ky.) on March 16, Loutsenhizer — the Pioneers' No. 5 starter at the time — entered the contest and shut down Asbury for three innings, earning the decision in Point Park's 10-6 victory.
In that performance, a new role was born. Loutsenhizer became the team's closer and helped pitch the Pioneers to a Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship and a berth in the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round, where they fell short of their second straight NAIA World Series appearance.
“It was a little difficult in the beginning, because this is honestly the first time I came out of the (bullpen) in my entire life,” said Loutsenhizer, a Norwin graduate. “I never got the chance in high school. When I was little, I'd come in to close, but that was about it.
“It was tough, because my arm wasn't used to getting ready quick — (when) they need you, they say, ‘Hey Ryan, get out there,' (and) they need you ready in half an inning — 10 minutes. It's a lot different, because when I was a starter, I'd go out there an hour before the game, start stretching and throwing. Everything was nice and calm. But when you're in the bullpen, it's time to go.”
The bullpen role ended up suiting Loutsenhizer well. In 13 appearances out of the bullpen, Loutsenhizer recorded six saves and allowed just one run in 16 2⁄3 innings. He finished the season with a 3-0 record, 0.79 earned-run average and 16 strikeouts in 22 2⁄3 innings.
Loutsenhizer also closed out Point Park's 8-6 victory over Indiana Southeast in the KIAC Tournament championship game.
Along the way, he began to enjoy the role as a closer.
“Everybody's watching you make every pitch,” he said. “All those pitches have bigger magnitude than the other ones, it seems. I like to have the pressure on. I came right into the role — I loved it.”
At about the same time Loutsenhizer moved to the bullpen, Point Park got on a roll. After a 9-11 start, the team closed the season by winning 30 of its final 35 games.
Loutsenhizer credited a players-only meeting for the turnaround.
“The seniors on our team felt that there was too many kids on our team playing for themselves,” he said. “We had to play for each other. We're a team, and everybody just has to do their job. They have to make it happen. Each person just had to do their job, and then the next guy will do theirs. We pulled together after that, and it was all history.”
In taking on the bullpen role, Loutsenhizer had to put aside some personal struggles of his own. He spent the first three seasons of his Point Park career as a starter, leading all Pioneers starting pitchers with a 3.34 ERA during his sophomore season in 2011.
However, a partially torn rotator cuff hampered Loutsenhizer during his junior season. Though he finished with a 5-0 record, his ERA ballooned to 7.09, and he watched from the bench as Point Park finished in fifth place at the NAIA World Series.
“I wanted to pitch every single game, but it just wasn't my year,” he said. “It was tough, but I was happy to see the guys who were playing do well because I know how hard we worked as an entire team. We were all part of it.”
Loutsenhizer said he “worked (his) butt off” in the offseason to come back stronger this year. It ended up paying off, just in a different way than he expected.
Not that he's complaining. Loutsenhizer said he enjoyed his time at Point Park, and the program went from a 13-26 team his freshman season to an NAIA contender in a short amount of time.
“I had fun (freshman) year, but it was nothing like these other years when we were stacked,” said Loutsenhizer, who plans to graduate in December with a degree in sport, arts and entertainment management. “It's just amazing how the program came so far in such a little time. And I know years after I leave, next year and the year after that, we're going to compete for a national championship every single year.”