Written by Cal Friedman
As the CLPB continued on, we have seen a trend of starting pitchers going deeper and deeper into games. After the first two weeks passed, the longest outing for a starting pitcher had been 5.0 innings pitched. Last week’s games saw multiple pitchers go over five innings, including two going as deep as 7.0 IP. The Florida Vipers finished last week with a 2-1 record, with both of their wins coming from RHP Bryan Ariza, who wins the CLPB Player of the Week for week number three.
Ariza got off to a fair start before last week’s performances, making three appearances out of the Vipers’ bullpen. Going into last week, Ariza had nine strikeouts in his first 3.1 IP, striking out nine of his total 10 outs recorded. He had given up just 1 run, giving up 2 hits in his third outing of the season against Wellington.
Last week, Ariza elevated his game, now standing out as one of the top arms in the CLPB. In week three, he got his first two wins of the season, including one in his first start, and now has taken over as the strikeout king in the CLPB, with 11 in last week alone (20 on the season). With a brutal low-nineties fastball and a tricky curveball, the Palm Beach State righty fooled batter after batter.
Ariza pitched a total of 10.0 innings in his two appearances last week, starting out against the Juno Beach Loggerheads on Tuesday. He entered the game in a jam, with the Vipers holding a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth with runners on. Juno Beach catcher Miles Watson did wind up tying the game at 2 off Ariza, but after that, the 5’9” right-hander settled in. Ariza would give up just 1 hit in the next 2.1 innings, striking out an additional four batters.
Ariza then got the run support he deserved as he was set to exit, with the Vipers tacking on four runs in the 8th to help put the game away, holding on to win 8-2. Ariza was credited with his first win of the season.
With the successful couple of appearances out of the bullpen, Ariza earned his first start on the season. With the Vipers losing their second game of the week, coach Steve Proteau turned to Ariza on Thursday afternoon against the Palm Beach Snowbirds. A day after the Marlins’ Erick Argote went 7.0 innings deep against the Snowbirds, Ariza delivered his most dominant performance so far, one of the best from any pitcher this season.
Ariza would throw over 100 pitches against the Snowbirds, going 7.0 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, giving up just four hits and two walks. He silenced the big batters for Palm Beach, striking out Kirkland Festa and Dylan Criquet twice. Ariza also had five innings where he did not give up a hit. The Vipers would go on to win 8-0 in eight innings.
“I definitely had to keep the [baserunners] down in this game.” Ariza said following the win. “My defense really helped me out today… If I was going to extend my outing, I had to keep putting balls in play, not just trying to strike out everyone I faced.”
He wrapped up week three of the CLPB season with a 2-0 record, a 0.90 ERA, and 11 strikeouts in two outings. Ariza struck out more batters (11) than allowed base runners (6 hits, 3 walks) last week. He now stands first in the CLPB going in strikeouts with 20, just one strikeout ahead of Loggerheads’ left-handed pitcher Rich Pfluger. He has the sixth-best ERA (for pitchers that have thrown more than 6.0 IP), with a 1.32 ERA, and was first in the CLPB in innings pitched going into Monday, throwing 13.2 IP.
Ariza’s Vipers dropped their first game of the week against the Loggerheads Monday, but bounced back with a 6-1 win over Wellington. They still have two more games this week, Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 P.M. against the Snowbirds, finished by a Friday Morning meeting with the Marlins at 9:00 A.M.