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Baseball Preview: Cincinnati welcomes Memphis for weekend series

Cincinnati looks to use some home-field advantage to try and maintain first place in the AAC with a three game-set against the Memphis Tigers.

With the regular season about to enter its final month, each series for the Cincinnati Bearcats baseball team becomes even more crucial. This weekend, the first-place Bearcats will look maintain their slim advantage at the top of the American Athletic Conference standings as they will host the first of two three-game series this season against the Memphis Tigers.

Despite an overall losing record, the Bearcats hold a 1/2 game lead over the Connecticut Huskies for first place. There is really no margin of error anymore for the Bearcats within the conference because the AAC standings are razor thin. One bad weekend series, and the Bearcats could go from first to sixth by Sunday afternoon.

Last weekend, Cincinnati enjoyed a successful series against Tulane in New Orleans by taking two of three from the Green Wave. The Bearcats starting pitching was the biggest key to winning the series. In the three games, Bearcat starters allowed a total of three earned runs in 16.1 innings. It was a much needed performance from the staff that sits sixth in the ACC in ERA with 3.71

Starting pitching is something that Memphis has struggled mightily with this season. The Tigers overall ERA is the worst in the conference at 5.12, but still features starter, Connor Alexander, that sits 4th in the AAC in innings pitched with 62. Alexander is expected to face the Bearcats on Saturday.

Memphis currently sits sixth in the AAC standings, coming off losing two of three last weekend at home against East Carolina. While Memphis has problems on the mound, they present some challenges to the Bearcats staff. Outfielder Jake Little leads the team in batting average with .331, which is also fourth best in the conference.

The Bearcats is sending out their two best starters out against the Tigers on Friday and Saturday. Junior Andrew Zellner took the mound tonight looking to build on his team best 2.07 ERA. Zellner did not allow any earned runs last Friday against Tulane despite just going four innings. The Bearcat pitcher to watch this weekend is sophomore J.T. Perez. Perez pitched brilliantly last Saturday took in New Orleans, but took the lone Bearcat loss after giving up a walk-off home run in the ninth inning. It was Perez's second complete game of the season.

This is truly a huge weekend for Bearcat baseball. The athletic department has been pushing on social media to set the single-game attendance record tonight at Marge Schott Stadium. The Bearcats will get a big preview of the opponent that could hold the key to them winning the regular season AAC title in the final regular season series in May

Quick Notes

Records: Memphis (13-24, 4-5) sixth in AAC, Cincinnati (18-20, 6-3) first in AAC

Venue: Marge Schott Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Game Times:

Friday April 22nd, 6pm

Saturday April 23rd, 6pm

Sunday April 24th, 1pm

Last Games:

Memphis (Mississippi, L 7-0)

Cincinnati (at Ohio State, L 9-0)

Last Meeting:

May 20, 2015

American Athletic Conference Tournament second round

Memphis 14 Cincinnati 9

Players to Watch:

Memphis: Colton Hathcock (RHP), the Tigers ace will need to set the tone on the mound Friday night in what expects to be a boisterous crowd. Hathcock leads the Tigers staff with a 3.63 ERA. Hathcock faced the Bearcats last May and had his longest outing of the season despite losing 11-4.

Cincinnati: Connor McVey (3B), the Bearcats have been looking for their offense that currently sits last in the AAC in overall batting average to heat up. This weekend might be their chance facing a hittable Tigers staff. The key to get the offense going will come from McVey. McVey leads the team with a .293 batting average and 21 stolen bases. The sophomore can create problems for the Tigers if he gets on the base paths as he has only been thrown out once.