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Series Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Northern Kentucky Norse

The weekend is here and that means baseball time.

Nick Brown/GoBearcats.com

General Info

Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (10-10) vs. Northern Kentucky (7-11)

Location: Marge Schott Stadium (Games one and two). Bill Aker Baseball Complex/Highland Heights, Kentucky

Series History: UC leads the all-time series 26-13, with 16 wins in 23 tries at home. This is the first meeting between the local rivals since 2013.

Times/Probable Starters

  • Game One - Friday March 24 5 p.m. Andrew Zellner (1-1, 3.09 ERA) vs. Trey Ganns (2-2, 7.40 ERA)
  • Game Two - Saturday March 25 1:00 p.m. J.T. Perez (1-3, 4.11 ERA) vs. Pat Kelley (0-1, 6.55 ERA)
  • Game Three - Sunday March 26 Noon. TBA vs. TBA

Meet the Opponent

NKU is a team that does one thing fairly well and another miserably. I’ll let you figure out what.

The Norse are batting .273 as a team and have hit 11 home runs in 18 games. Shortstop and leadoff hitter Jake Richmond is the most potent bat in the lineup. He leads the team in runs scored (17), home runs (three), doubles (six) and total bases (38). He’s slashed .338/.471/.559 and has kept his K/BB ratio in a solid area (18/13). Other hitters that will be difficult to get out are Dominic Mercurio, Trey Ganns and TJ Alas. Mercurio, who plays the hot corner, has good contact skills but hasn’t been big with extra base hits. Ganns, who also pitches for the cause, has slashed .308/.446/.400, gets on base well and leads the team in RBI (12). Alas plays the outfield and has smacked two home runs while batting .291.

Ganns has a 7.40 ERA and is tied for the most starts on the team. That should tell you all you need to know about NKU’s pitching performance. The Norse have a team ERA of 6.94 and Kyle Arganbright, who has pitched in all of four games, is the only player with an ERA below 4.00 and one of two below 5.00. Saturday starter Pat Kelley (6.55 ERA) is not one of those players.

Despite the pitching woes, NKU has managed to avoid being completely hopeless, with a 7-11 overall mark and four wins in the last five games.

Game One Breakdown

Zellner pitched pretty recently, throwing a shutout inning of relief in Cincinnati’s upset of No. 1 Louisville on Tuesday. The right-hander will take his usual place as the Friday starter tonight, as he’ll make his sixth start of the season. Zellner has pitched to a 3.09 ERA in 32 innings this year and has 27 strikeouts and a .214 opponent batting average. Ganns obviously isn’t in that echelon, so Zellner isn’t likely to be caught up in a pitching duel. That is especially true if Kyle Mottice’s midweek surge continues to bump him back to respectability, even if he is still batting just .211 on the season.

Game Two Breakdown

Perez also pitched against Louisville, allowing an unearned run but nothing else. After a slow start, he has begun to turn things around, lowering his ERA to a respectable 4.11 in five starts and a relief appearance. Regardless of his struggles, Perez has still been an innings eater, tallying 30 23 frames. He’ll be countered by Kelley, who has had it much worse than the Bearcats’ southpaw.

While Mottice has started to find his rhythm a little bit, A.J. Bumpass (.333/.439/.565) and R.J. Thompson (.314/.402/.400) have both been excellent hitters and fielders in the outfield. Eric Santiago (.255/.296/.314) has shown enough flash to win playing time frequently, while Connor McVey (.254/.354/.394) is getting on base well but has been streaky.

Game Three Breakdown

There isn’t much detail ready for the final game of this series, other than the fact that the venue will change. With the first two games at Marge Schott Stadium, this series finale will be held at NKU’s Bill Aker Baseball Complex. Clayton Colvin may have been given a promotion in part because David Orndorff has performed well as a reliever. Orndorff picked up his fourth save of the season against Louisville and may have cemented himself as the closer for Ty Neal. Colvin is a fine replacement as the Sunday starter, at least based on last week when he allowed two runs on four hits across five innings in a 4-2 win against Northeastern.

Prediction

The pitching for the Bearcats gives them a decided advantage in this series. Zellner has been just fine this year and Orndorff has given the squad a very reliable arm in the bullpen. Meanwhile, Perez is finding himself again and Colvin can be a fine Sunday starter. However, the lineup needs to be more balanced, which is the only reason this won’t be an easy sweep against the pitching poor Norse.