A few years ago, Ben Lively was pitching against Tony Cingrani in college. Now he's doing his best to emulate the big leaguer.
The Reds' No. 13 prospect recorded 10 strikeouts for the second straight start and gave up one hit over six innings on Tuesday night as Class A Advanced Bakersfield blanked Modesto, 4-0.
Lively (4-0), who walked one batter, gave up just a two-out single to Matt Wessinger in the second inning. He settled in to retire the next 13 batters, recording four of the last six outs via strikeouts.
"Kind of the same stuff, just keep throwing strikes, keep the ball down and work in my off-speed [stuff]," said Lively, who matched his week-old career high for strikeouts. "Mostly tonight it was just the fastball, I was just locating my fastball. I'd show one in and then I'd bring it back away and they'd either chase it or watch it."
The most remarkable statistic of Lively's night was his walk to David Kandilas to open the game. The free pass was the first one issued by the 22-year-old right-hander in four California League starts.
"I'm just repeating my delivery and I have a good feel for all my pitches," Lively said. "The fastball I feel like I can throw whenever, and I can throw my slider whenever."
Through four starts, Lively has a California League-leading 0.39 ERA and has fanned 33 batters over 23 innings. He's allowed only eight hits, and the one run he's given up was on a solo homer by Kandilas as he's reeled off 18 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. His start is reminiscent of how Tony Cingrani opened the 2012 season for the Blaze, posting the same ERA while fanning 28.
"Yeah, he went through the system and got there quick and that's one of my goals," said Lively, the reigning Cal League Player of the Week. "I pitched against Tony in college -- he went to Rice -- and I've seen him do his thing ever since my first year in college. When he got here he just took off."
With his hot start, it's certainly raised the possibility of Lively moving up to the Southern League. A promotion would represent a homecoming for the University of Central Florida product, who's from Pensacola, Fla., home of the Reds' Double-A affiliate.
"It crosses my mind, but I'm not worrying about that," the 2013 fourth-round Draft pick said. "If it's meant to be, it'll happen on its own."
Brooks Pinckard took over for Lively and gave up one hit over two innings before Carlos Gonzalez struck out the side in the ninth for the Blaze.
John Tolisano singled, walked and scored twice for Bakersfield, while Zach Vincej went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Nuts starter Andrew Brown (0-2) remained winless after allowing two runs on three hits and five walks with three strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings.