Starting pitchers Ryan Anderson and Owen Sharts are the aces for the Nevada Baseball team. The two hurlers have been at the forefront of the Wolf Pack pitching staff all season and combined for 107.2 innings pitched and seven wins in the process.
“Having two guys like that in your rotation is tremendous,” said Nevada head coach T.J. Bruce earlier this season. “Both have played well off each other and it’s translating to wins for us. They [both] have what I call the ‘golden arm’.”
Anderson’s impressive junior campaign has earned him the spot as the Wolf Pack’s go-to starter this season. The southpaw sports a 4-2 record with a 4.15 ERA and a team-high 53 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. Anderson’s career-high 11 strikeouts against Long Beach State on Feb. 22 are the third-most in school history since 2000.
He was named the Mountain West Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 25. Anderson’s aggressive nature on the mound has gained the attention of his opponents, as well as his teammates.
“Once he gets out there, it’s a Ryan not many people see,” Sharts said. “He really puts on that competitive face and goes to work and doesn’t really care who is on the other side.”
The 6-foot-6 left-hander was given the nickname “Rhino” with the rest of the team in the clubhouse, but Anderson chose a different animal to describe his game.
“I just try to pitch out there like a bulldog,” Anderson said. “Just try to kind of be pissed off and attack the zone, by not letting up and being the aggressor on the mound.”
Anderson pounds the strike zone with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, but his off-speed changeup keeps opposing teams chasing with deceptive movement. The lanky pitcher has also developed a sweeping, mid-80s slider that breaks away from left-handed batters and forces ground balls. He’s held opposing batters to a team-low .227 batting average this season.
“My fastball-changeup combination has been working all season,” he said. “If I land my slider and it’s clicking, it really keeps the batters off guard. I have confidence throwing any of the three in whatever count, so it’s taking my game to a new level.”
A native of Sparks, Nevada, Anderson made the short 12.3 mile trip from Spanish Springs High School to carry on the family tradition of representing the silver and blue. His sister, Lisa Anderson, played volleyball for the Wolf Pack from 2013-16.
Following a stellar high school career as a starter with the Cougars, posting a 2.10 ERA and 181 punchouts in three seasons, Anderson transitioned to the bullpen in his first two seasons with Nevada. He totaled seven starts in 36 appearances from 2017-18.
Now the No. 1 starter in the rotation, Anderson is putting together a stellar season for his hometown team.
“It’s really cool, I’m enjoying it,” he said. “Just being able to come out and racking up wins is something special and I want to keep doing that.”
While Anderson is the rhino, Sharts takes a smooth and calm approach to each of his starts. The freshman right-hander is slotted in as the team’s No. 2 starter and has improved off a rocky portion during the middle of the season.
“I’m a little more self-aware when I’m on the mound,” he said. “I’ve been calming down. I control my breathing, my thoughts and just refocus before I get back out there and throw a pitch.”
Sharts picked up two-straight wins to begin his college career but went 0-6 over his last six starts. He has a 3-7 record on the year. Back-to-back solid outings have lowered Sharts’ ERA to 5.97 on the season with 30 strikeouts in 50.1 innings pitched. He tossed two shutout outings on Feb. 16 and April 13.
“I just need to put a stop to a couple of things,” he said. “I’ve been getting into some trouble when I’m one-to-two pitches away from getting out of the inning with zeros on the board. It’s about making that one pitch to get out of some jams.”
Sharts has flashed the stuff that made him a 32nd round selection in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. His four-seam fastball touches the low-90s and he compliments it with a changeup that ties batters at the hands. His 12-6 curveball is becoming his putout pitch, as it breaks from the lower half of the strike zone towards the dirt.
“As a staff, we’re really fastball heavy, so I can cross-count guys with my curveball or changeup,” he said. “It just gives the batter something else to pay attention to and it makes my fastball a bit more effective out there.”
Coming from Simi Valley, California, Sharts lettered all four years at Simi Valley High School. The 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher was named 2018 League MVP and Ventura County Pitcher of the Year. His dominance on the mound translated to league championships for the Pioneers in 2016 and 2018.
Sharts Accumulated a 1.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in his senior season with Simi Valley. He turned down the chance to go pro and joined the Wolf Pack and won’t be draft eligible until his junior season.
Sharts’ emergence in his freshman season has caught Anderson’s eye, as well.
“At the end of the day we’re both competitors just striving to get better,” he said.
Both pitchers will be heavily relied upon as the Wolf Pack head into a crucial stretch of the season with just over a month left of the regular season. Nevada is 10-11 in conference play this season, good for fifth place in the Mountain West.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.