Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (12-11) at Kentucky Wildcats (18-7)
Location: Cliff Hagan Stadium, Lexington, Kentucky
Series History: Kentucky leads 58-30-3. Cincinnati won earlier this year at home, taking a 2-1 extra inning victory. Also, according to Cincinnati’s media guide, there were six matchups with unknown results. So that’s neat.
Time/Probably Starters: 6:30 p.m./TBD (0-0, 0.00) vs. TBD (0-0, 0.00)
Meet the Opponent ... Again
Cincinnati has already run into (and over) the No. 16 Wildcats. Somehow, the heavy hitting team in blue was silenced by the Bearcats’ staff in a 2-1 victory in early March, but it would be naive to think the Wildcats can be leashed once again. With six players batting above .300 and two more above the .290 level, UK is a team that gets hits and gets them in bunches. The Wildcats hit .326 as a team, led by Luke Becker (.373). Zach Reks (.371) is next in line and also the team’s best base runner, having stolen nine bases in 10 tries. While Marcus Carson (.350), Tyler Marshall (.340), Kole Cottam (.329) and Riley Mahan (.310) all above .300 as well, Connor Heady is the power bat in the lineup, having launched five home runs despite batting only .280. Boy, having hits to burn must be nice. However. UK only had four hits against UC back on March 8, including an 0-for-16 showing from the top four batters in the lineup.
Zack Thompson pitched six shutout innings as the starter for UK in that game and he’s not even the best starter on the roster. Zach Logue (4-1, 2.45 ERA) and Justin Lewis (4-1. 2.72) are the contenders for that honor, but they are weekend performers so the Bearcats should be spared from facing them. If it is Thompson again, it will still be tough, as he has struck out 31 batters in 25 innings and owns a respectable 3.96 ERA.
Now, even if they did get a win, its not as if the Bearcats dominated against UK previously. They went 5-for-32 as a team and scored two unearned runs to claim victory. A.J. Bumpass had a hit in four at-bats in the two-hole and also walked once in that victory. Since then, and really this whole season, the outfielder has been exceptional with the stick. With a .349/.438/.627 slash line on the season, Bumpass has certainly been the best hitter on the team. He is the only player with a batting average above .300 and his 13 extra base hits easily lead the team. His ability to spark the offense will go a long way in deciding if UC can keep up with the Wildcats once again.
A.J. Olasz started for the Bearcats against UK once this year and is the usual midweek starter. He did a fantastic job against UK, surrendering only two hits and no runs across 6 2⁄3 innings of work. A.J. Kullman also pitched well, closing out the game with 2 1⁄3 innings of scoreless baseball to earn the win. Olasz has a 1.83 ERA this season in 19 2⁄3 innings, while Kullman (3.44) has eaten innings out of the bullpen, but has been a little shaky at times. That has opened the door for David Orndorff, who has four saves and has suddenly become an important cog in relief rather than as a starter.
Just last week, UC knocked off a nationally ranked team, topping Louisville 6-3. To do it again, the Bearcats will need the bats to really be alive because expecting another one-run game from the Wildcats isn’t a great plan. Speaking of expectations, I wouldn’t put a whole lot into the visiting Bearcats in this one, as UK simply has the better team, even if UC has a win on its side from earlier.