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Series Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats at Tennessee Volunteers

Another SEC team that can hit like the dickens.

Joseph Fuqua II/GoBearcats.com

General Info

Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (5-6) at Tennessee Volunteers (9-1)

Location: Lindsey Nelson Stadium Knoxville, Tennessee

Series History: Tennessee has beat Cincinnati 17 times in 22 all-time meetings.

Times/Probable Starters

  • Game One - Friday March 10 6 p.m. Andrew Zellner (0-1, 3.44 ERA) vs. Hunter Martin (3-0, 3.94 ERA)
  • Game Two - Saturday March 11 2 p.m. J.T. Perez (0-2, 6.46 ERA) vs. Zach Warren (1-1, 3.65 ERA)
  • Game Three - Sunday March 12 2 p.m. TBA vs. TBA

Meet the Opponent

This will be the Cincinnati Bearcats’ first game against a ranked opponent this season. Tennessee has won nine of its first 10 games and is now No. 25 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Top 25.

Like Kentucky on Wednesday, Tennessee can absolutely rake. And I bet the Volunteers really like being compared to the Wildcats. Powered by the big lumber wielding Jeff Moberg and Jordan Rodgers (no, not Aaron’s brother), the Volunteers have a .341/.425/.507 slash line as a team along with nine home runs. Moberg (.476/.551/.857) has been absolutely unreal, smashing four home runs while hitting nearly .500. The second baseman went 4-for-4 in Tennessee’s 5-4 win over Norfolk State last time out, including a single in the bottom of the 11th that put him on base to score the winning run. Rodgers (.450/.477/.725) is also slugging quite a bit, with three home runs and 14 RBI. The third baseman is flanked in the lineup by several other powerful hitters, including Justin Ammons (.390/.479/.585) and Andre Lipcius (.385/.489/.438), who have combined for 13 extra base hits.

While the bats have been scorching, the pitching has been merely fine. With a team ERA of 3.20 and 86 strikeouts in 90 innings pitched, the staff has done more than enough to support an offense scoring 6.72 runs per game. Hunter Martin (3-0, 3.94 ERA) has punched out 23 batters in only 16 innings, but he is still letting up a few too many runs. Zach Warren (1-1, 3.65 ERA) and Will Neely (51-0, 5.27 ERA) are the other normal starters, while Garrett Stallings (1.23, 14 23 innings, six games) is a dynamic hurler out of the bullpen.

Game One Breakdown

Martin will be on the bump for Tennessee on Friday, countered by Andrew Zellner, UC’s ace. Zellner has thrown two quality starts in three appearances, with his work against Arkansas State Friday a very solid outing. He struck out a season-high nine batters and allowed only two runs in six innings of work. He also threw a season-high 98 pitches, so Ty Neal may be willing to ride him a bit more now that the season is fully underway.

Martin, who went 3-3 with a 2.03 ERA last season, can pile up strikeouts and work deep into games. He earned his third win last Friday with six innings of two-run, eight-strikeout ball. He’ll be in charge of cooling off Connor McVey (.317/.429/.463), the Bearcats third baseman and best hitter on the roster.

Game Two Breakdown

Warren allowed two runs, but neither were earned last Saturday against Norfolk State. He earned the win after surviving five innings, but it was Zach Linginfelter who really impressed, striking out seven batters in three shutout innings of relief. Linginfelter has also made a start for the Volunteers and with 17 strikeouts across 12 23 innings, he will likely introduce himself to the Bearcats at some point this weekend.

For the Bearcats, J.T. Perez is not set up to finally break out of his early season funk, as it will be difficult for him to avoid giving up extra base hits against Tennessee, an issue that has plagued him and resulted in his 6.46 ERA in 15 13 innings.

Game Three Breakdown

Neither team has announced their starter for Sunday, but we have a good idea of who will take the hill for the Bearcats. David Orndorff has started each of the first three Sundays of the season. He struggled a bit in his first two starts but was very good against Arkansas State last Sunday, allowing three runs across eight innings of work. He is 1-2 with a 4.60 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 15 23 innings overall. Tennessee may counter with Linginfelter or Neely.

Prediction

Once again, Tennessee is a very good baseball team that hits for days. That didn’t matter for UC on Wednesday, although some fortuitous errors really won the day more than UC’s bats, as the Bearcats had only five hits in the victory. UC is hitting only .233 on the season with an on-base percentage of .320. Although Zellner is a good pitcher and Perez should figure things out eventually, failing to get much going offensively will be UC’s undoing.