Even before they were Ohio State’s top two pitchers, Ryan Feltner and Connor Culis were friends.
The pair atop the Buckeyes’ starting rotation has known each other since playing on Ohio Elite’s under-17 summer travel baseball team following their junior years of high school. Feltner committed to play at Ohio State just before Curlis did, before they both joined the travel team.
“Knowing that I was gonna play [on Ohio Elite] with a guy I was going to be with in college was a good feeling,” Curlis said. “We got close that summer and then took it here.”
The Ohio State coaching staff said Feltner and Curtis are practically inseparable during workouts.
“They’re always working together, whether they’re playing catch, they’re long-tossing, whether they’re throwing bullpens the same day or the day after for the last two or three years,” pitching coach Mike Stafford said.
Curlis steadily became one of Ohio State’s more reliable starters after flipping back and forth between the rotation and bullpen last season, leading the team in wins with five and maintaining an ERA of 4.02. Feltner saw a great deal of action throughout the 2017 season, but struggled at times with a 1-5 record and a 6.32 ERA. But he then dominated in the Cape Cod summer league, allowing zero runs in 15.1 innings with 15 strikeouts and seven walks en route to being named the Cape Cod’s outstanding relief pitcher.
There has been plenty of offseason development to pin down the top two spots in the rotation this year. Senior reliever Seth Kinker said he hasn’t seen anyone work as hard as Feltner. Stafford agreed with that statement.
“I do feel like he doesn’t leave anything behind, from a preparation standpoint,” Stafford said. “Ready to go, arm healthy, pitches ready, body, getting the [right] amount of sleep, food, no question.”
Stafford also said Feltner’s slider has developed over time, a pitch that has been a point of emphasis for the duo in the off-season, in particular for Curlis.
Feltner feels Curlis’ slider has really come along, essentially becoming his strikeout pitch now, which is impressive considering he just added it to his repertoire late last year.
Curlis and Feltner often turn to each other for assistance in developing that specific breaking ball.
“I feel like we’re both helping each other with that in our flat-ground work, throwing program every day, just to get that to our ‘A’ pitch,” Curlis said.
Working together is nothing new for the pair. Curlis and Feltner have been workout partners since they first arrived on campus. That work has started to pay off with both Feltner and Curlis firmly entrenched in the top of Ohio State’s rotation.
The two have taught each other a lot in that time. More than anything else, Curlis said, it’s helped them learn how to compete.
“We have our strengths and our weaknesses, but just to attack and not pitch away from the bat,” Curlis said. “We’re not gonna strike out everyone.”