Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (1-2) at College of Charleston (2-2)
Location: The Ballpark at Patriots Point, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Series History: First meeting
- Game One - Friday Feb. 24 5 p.m. Andrew Zellner (0-0, 1.42 ERA) vs. Bailey Ober (1-0, 2.70 ERA)
- Game Two - Saturday Feb. 25 2:30 p.m. J.T. Perez (0-1, 6-75 ERA) vs. Carter Love (0-0, 5.40 ERA)
- Game Three - Sunday Feb. 26 1 p.m. TBA vs. TBA
Meet the Opponent
The Cougars have split their first four games of the season, which is actually pretty good considering the competition. They faced SEC squad Georgia in their opening series last weekend and took two out of three from the Bulldogs. Then, on Wednesday, they tangled with defending national champion Coastal Carolina and lost 16-7.
Logan McRae has been on a tear in the early going. The first baseman went 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBI in the loss to the Chanticleers and is slashing an astounding .643/.667/1.357 through four games. He has hit three home runs and amassed 13 RBI. That’s pretty great, small sample sized be damned. Shortstop Luke Manzo has also hit well to start this season (.400/.471/.467), while the Cougars are hitting .321 as a team overall.
As for the pitching side of things, Bailey Ober is the ace of the staff. He tossed a solid 6 2⁄3 innings in last Friday’s 9-3 win over Georgia. He allowed three runs (two earned) during that time and racked up eight strikeouts. Carter Love (5.40 ERA), Kris Kuhn (11.57 ERA) and Max McKinley (12.27 ERA) have also made starts. The struggles of the staff after Ober have led Charleston to an unsightly 8.21 team ERA.
Game One Breakdown
Ober will make the start for the Cougars on Firday night and he will be opposed by Andrew Zellner, the Bearcats’ ace. Fresh off a first-team All-American Athletic Conference season, Zellner showed himself to be right on track to repeat in the season opener, hurling 6 1⁄3 innings of one-run ball. He also struck out six batters in that time, showing a bit more of the swing-and-miss stuff he lacked a year ago.
As for Ober, his toughest out will be Connor McVey, the Bearcats third baseman and leading hitter through the first three games (.363/.462/.636). He is also the only player on the team to have hit a home run, while the Bearcats have batted a miserable .179 as a team.
Game Two Breakdown
J.T. Perez had a stellar 2016 campaign but did not start off 2017 as well as Zellner, struggling his way through four innings against Northwestern State last Saturday. Seven days later he will be trying to drop his 6.75 ERA with a stronger showing. Batters like Kyle Mottice (.250/.308/.417) and Ryan Noda (.222/.417/.333) will also try to get back on track at the plate, as will Joey Thomas (.200/.333/.300) who has seemingly secured the starting catching job.
Game Three Breakdown
Starting pitchers for Sunday’s series finale have not been announced yet. David Orndorff started last Sunday for the Bearcats and was serviceable, if not particularly effective. He allowed four runs (three earned) over five innings of work, but did flash some unhittable stuff here or there, striking out six batters. If he doesn’t get the ball, it’s possible A.J. Olasz will make his season debut.
As for Charleston, Kuhn and McKinley are the likely options, although both pitched in the loss to Coastal Carolina.
Its tough to tell if the Cougars struggle to pitch or if they just had a tough draw in their first four games. With that aside it’s pretty clear that they can hit. Zellner may be able to tame them, but its unclear how the rest of UC’s staff will fare. Ideally, Charleston’s own pitching woes will continue, allowing the Bearcats’ lineup to serve up some improved run production, but that still might not be enough if McRae and company continue to rake. It’s looking like another series loss for the Bearcats, who will hopefully salvage one game at the very least.