Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (3-4) at Arkansas State (6-4)
Location: Tomlinson Stadium/Kell Field Jonseboro, Arkansas
Series History: Arkansas State beat Cincinnati 2-0 in 1962 in the only previous meeting.
- Game One - Friday March 3 6 p.m. Andrew Zellner (0-1, 3.65 ERA) vs. Bryan Ayers (2-0, 1.64 ERA)
- Game Two - Saturday March 4 2:00 p.m. J.T. Perez (0-1, 7.00 ERA) vs. Peyton Culbertson (1-1, 3.00 ERA)
- Game Three - Sunday March 5 1 p.m. TBA vs. Collin Cahill (1-0, 5.19 ERA)
Meet the Opponent
Keep an eye on catcher Justin Felix. The junior backstop has ripped apart opposing pitching, slashing .433/.553/.833 and mashing eight extra-base hits, including two home runs, while driving in 16 runs. His power and contact skills have elevated a decent, but not great lineup, which does feature Drew Tipton (.389/.455/.500) and Joe Schrimpf (.328/.432/.471) and has produced a .259/.383/.394 line overall.
Pitching has not been a strong suit for ASU. Outside of ace Bryan Ayers, the Red Wolves don’t really have a ton of dominant arms. A team ERA near five (4.92) has been inflated by four games in which they have let up at least nine runs, including a 13-0 loss to Missouri State on Wednesday. One good thing that can be said about the staff is that it sure strikes out a lot of batters, with the Red Wolves punching out 116 in 86 total innings, good enough for the third-best mark in the country in strikeouts per nine innings (12.1).
Game One Breakdown
This will be a good chance for Andrew Zellner to bounce back from his difficult outing last Friday. Pitching against the College of Charleston, Zellner allowed four runs on six hits in as many innings. Although he lasted deep enough into the game, the runs allowed were not ideal and ballooned his ERA to 3.65. The team-leader in innings pitched (12 1/3), Zellner has Ty Neal’s trust and will be given a longer leash than most, but cutting down on the hits and runs allowed needs to be a frequent occurrence for that to continue.
Zellner will certainly have to be on his A-game if he hopes to out-duel Ayers, who has dominated his way to a 1.64 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 11 innings of work.
Game Two Breakdown
Although Zellner has not been on fire to start the season, he has still been solid enough. The same cannot be said of J.T. Perez, who has an ERA of 7.00 and has only pitched through nine innings. While his strikeout total (10) has been nice to see, he has sacrificed run prevention. When teams do get the bat on the ball, its usually the barrel and it usually goes far. Perez has allowed 10 hits this season and six of them have gone for extra bases. ASU has 29 extra-base hits as a team, with Felix producing most of those, so Perez will need to be careful and locate his pitches well.
Game two’s starter for Arkansas State will be Peyton Culbertson, who has not been given a long time on the mound when he has pitched. Despite starting twice, he has only worked six innings while allowing as many runs. Those aren’t all his fault, however, as his ERA stands at 3.00 since he allowed only two earned runs. However, he has walked five batters and given up as many hits in those six innings, so he isn’t a stranger to letting ducks on the pond. If Jace Mercer (.333/.375/.400) gets another run at the leadoff spot and can take advantage, UC could give itself some help early on.
Game Three Breakdown
Although UC has not announced its game three starter yet, all signs point to David Orndorff. The junior right-hander has been the Sunday starter in the first two series of the season and A.J. Olasz was just used on Wednesday. Orndorff has been tagged for an ERA of 5.87 and has lost both of his starts, so its possible Neal will try someone else out in hopes of reversing the trend. If that occurs, expect the bullpen to get involved, especially A.J Kullman (1.17 ERA) and Jarod Yoakam (3.18 ERA), who have been the most effective arms out of the bullpen.
No matter who starts for the Bearcats, Collin Cahill is destined to oppose them. He has struck out 11 batters in 8 2⁄3 innings, but, and this is a big but, he has an ERA of 5.19 in two starts. Maybe this will be the game in which Connor McVey (.286/.355/.429), Kyle Mottice (.227/.346/.318) and Ryan Noda (.208/.345/.417) can get things going and not leave it all on R.J. Thompson (.360/.429/.440) and A.J. Bumpass (.296/.387/.630).
ASU and UC actually have an opponent in common this season, as the Red Wolves also played a three-game series against Northwestern State. They had more success against the Demons, taking two of three and outscoring their foes 20-15. UC played Northwestern State tough, but lost the series. If ASU really is a cut above the Demons, then they’re even higher than the Bearcats.