Sushi, sodas and a shout-out from teammates followed record-breaking strikeouts by University of Memphis pitcher Jonathan Bowlan on Saturday.
Throwing his first complete game of his college career, Bowlan struck out 18 University of South Florida batters during an 8-2 victory to set the school and American Athletic Conference strikeout record. It was also the most this season in the NCAA.
On Monday, Bowlan was named the AAC Pitcher of the Week and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Week.
“I was just ready to get out there and perform in the wonderful weather the Lord gave us. I also was working on my slider throughout the week and that helped a ton,” said Bowlan.
Using his fast ball most, it topped out at speeds of 96 mph. “I was sitting 92-94 mph,” he said. “I threw my slider to get guys swinging and the speed of that was 84-86 mph.”
Bowlan, a junior, joined his father Mark Bowlan in the school record books.
On May 3, 1987, Mark pitched the only perfect game in Tigers history.
“It means a lot the fact that I get to be a part of school history with him. It is a dream come true,” said Jonathan.
While work prevented Mark from attending the game in Tampa, he watched it on his computer and talked with Jonathan afterwards.
“He told me he was proud of me and loves me and to keep working hard and it will pay off in the end when my college career ends,” said Jonathan.
After a post-game radio interview, Jonathan boarded the bus to return to the hotel and got huge applause and a standing ovation from teammates.
“It was awesome and it showed how much they support me. I will never forget it.”
With teammates he ate sushi and drank a couple of sodas to celebrate.
“It was a perfect celebration.”
A Bartlett High School graduate, Bowlan allowed two runs on four hits, no walks and struck out the No. 20-ranked Bulls in three separate innings. He had retired 18 straight batters before a bottom-of-the ninth single.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better, true Tiger than Jonathan. It’s quiet an honor considering we are the No. 3 RPI (Rating Percentage Index) conference in the country and this league is riddled with great draft picks especially on the mound,” said Memphis head baseball coach Daron Schoenrock.
“He had great velocity (93-96, 97 mph) and command of the fastball and his slider was a great two-strike pitch.”
Bowlan, who has a 2-6 record, a 2.78 ERA and career-high 88 strikeouts, was able to get in the zone because he knew that he had to perform to prove himself to the Bulls, people watching and teammates, he said.
Schoenrock said, “He wanted to finish it because he feels like he owed it to his team. He is the ultimate team guy. We have to do very little to keep Jon Jon focused, but the turning point was when we scored the 4-run inning. It gave Jon Jon a boost to go finish the deal.”
The Tigers (15-30) scored four runs in the fifth inning.
Designated hitter Nick Vaage finished the game going three-for-four and right fielder Colton Neel got two hits while first baseman Kyle Quellette had 2 RBI.
Memphis begins a three-game home series with the University of Connecticut at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“It was definitely exciting,” said Bowlan of his record-setter. “It definitely boosted my confidence and determined me even more to keep performing at this level because people are watching.”
BILL SORRELL is a freelance writer for The Bartlett Express and other Journal West 10 Media LLC publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.