Feb. 23, 2012
By Adam Pruiett
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Travis Tingle is a guy who refuses to take himself too seriously. Except, that is, when he strides to the mound for the Louisville baseball team.
Off the field, the Cardinals' senior pitcher is carefree, lighthearted and quirky. Never is that more evident than when observing his college backpack, a Buzz Lightyear-themed carryall which is generally more suited for elementary school students than college scholars. Put him in between the base lines, though, and there's nothing Disney-fied about Tingle.
"He definitely has his own style," junior pitcher Justin Amlung (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier HS) said. "On the field, there's probably nobody more intense than he is."
That's one reason why Tingle's teammates voted him as a team co-captain along with senior pitcher Derek Self (Cave City, Ky./Caverna HS) and sophomore outfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS). Another would be the level of performance they anticipate from the 6-foot-5, 213-pound right-hander out of Louisville's Butler High School.
After transferring to Louisville following two all-conference seasons at Cleveland State (Tenn.) Community College, Tingle's 2011 campaign was hindered after he tore multiple ligaments in his ankle. As his health returned, he was effective in selective duty as a reliever before excelling late in the season as a starter. Tingle proved his capability during the BIG EAST Championship when he struck out a career-high 10 batters while earning a victory over Pittsburgh.
"Once I got back healthy and started to make an impact, like coach (Dan McDonnell) and (pitching) coach (Roger) Williams say, they just want to see you compete," said Tingle, who in 2011 tallied a 3-1 record with a 2.60 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 19 appearances, including five starts. "I just went out there and competed, tried to do the best I could to get out of jams. Once I started doing that, they gave me a bigger role."
That role has continued to grow this season. Tingle started 16th-ranked Louisville's third game in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge last weekend, taking a no-decision in the Cardinals' 7-6 win over Michigan State in St. Petersburg, Fla., after striking out three and allowing three earned runs in two innings.
"We had to write down goals with coach (McDonnell)," Tingle said, "and my goal was to be in the rotation. That's all I've been working hard for this whole fall and summer. I've just been trying to work and work and hopefully solidify a spot and hopefully keep it the whole year."
Louisville will continue a nine-game homestand this weekend with a three-game series against Oakland University with games starting at 3 p.m., ET Friday, 1 p.m., Saturday and noon Sunday at Jim Patterson Stadium. Tingle is scheduled to start the Sunday finale against the Grizzlies.
Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said Tingle is a pitcher who may be under the radar but has the potential to throw like an ace.
"Sometimes it's that guy you don't talk about a whole lot," McDonnell said, "maybe has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder that you look up after three or four weeks and you go, `Wow, he's the guy that nobody was talking about at the beginning, but maybe he's the best pitcher on the staff.' You want to have some internal competition. You want to have guys that feel like they're the Friday night guy because when your Saturday guy is that good and your Sunday guy is that good, then it's tough to beat us."
Like many of his Cardinals teammates, Tingle entered the season buoyed by a productive and decorated summer. While assuming closer duties for the Thomasville HiToms of the Coastal Plain League, Tingle garnered league all-star honors after going 5-1 with 11 saves and a 4.02 ERA in 27 appearances. He struck out nearly one batter per inning, fanning 40 in 40.1 innings of work.
The Buzz Lightyear backpack was something of a tongue-in-cheek self-reward for a job well-done with the HiToms. Tingle's teammate and fellow pitcher Conner Scarborough, who throws for Gardner-Webb University, had a Cookie Monster backpack.
"We were saying if we made the all-star team, we were just going to wear (goofy backpacks) down there," Tingle said. "I made it and went out and got a Buzz Lightyear one and have kept it the entire time. Some people like it around school, some people think I just do it for attention, but I'm just a big kid at heart."
Amlung said Tingle is also a leader at heart, speaking up on the field and in the weight room with encouraging words for his teammates. When he's on the mound, Amlung said, Tingle brings consistency, throws strikes and trusts his defense to make plays behind him.
"He's coming after you," Amlung said. "He always gives our team a chance to win."
While playing his prep baseball at Butler, Tingle got the opportunity to compete at Jim Patterson Stadium on multiple occasions. He rooted for the Cardinals as a fan when they played heated rival Kentucky. And now as a college player, he's enjoyed the chance to pitch in front of family and friends while wearing the red, white and black.
But those aren't the primary reasons why he chose Louisville following his stint at Cleveland State.
"My dream was always to go to Omaha," Tingle said. "I talked to my dad (Troy) and he's always been like, `The first time you go to Omaha, why not it be as a player and not as a fan?' Of the schools that were coming after me, Louisville had the most history of making the Regionals and really just having success in the postseason. I thought maybe I could come in here and have my chance to go to Omaha."
If he does get that chance, he won't be hard to identify in Omaha. Just look for the guy proudly wearing a Buzz Lightyear backpack.