Wright State Raiders (25-8) vs. Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (13-23) 3 p.m.
Cincinnati Bearcats (18-17) vs. Xavier Musketeers (20-16) 6:30 p.m.
Marge Schott Stadium Cincinnati, Ohio
Played in honor of Joe Nuxhall, the youngest player to ever play in an MLB game (15 years-old) and a broadcasting veteran for the Cincinnati Reds, this tournament was first played in 2009. Xavier won the initial tournament, which has always featured UC, Xavier, Wright State and Miami (Ohio). The tourney has largely belonged to the Bearcats and Raiders, who have won seven of eight titles. Wright State won last year, its fourth time doing so in the last five years.
Meet the participants
You’re probably already familiar with the Bearcats, who are 18-17 overall after taking two of three from a very good USF Bulls team this past weekend. Despite that nice series win, the Bearcats are still struggling to put the bat on the ball, batting just .248 as a team with just a single player hitting above .300. That player is outfielder A.J. Bumpass, who usually bats second and has slashed .338/.439/.562 with 17 extra-base hits. Fellow outfielder R.J. Thompson (.288/.373/.364) is another solid batter when it comes to contact while power hitting first baseman Ryan Noda (six home runs) has been swinging a hot bat of late.
No starter has been announced for UC yet but A.J. Olasz will likely get some action either in the first round or during Wednesday’s second round. Olasz has pitched to a 3.86 ERA in seven starts this season and even has a shutout under his belt. As a staff the Bearcats have a middling 4.04 ERA partially due to a tendency to pitch to contact, with only 200 strikeouts in 309 2⁄3 total innings.
The Crosstown Shootout rivalry is not as heated on the diamond, but Xavier is still a rival for the Bearcats in baseball. This year’s version has been pretty good, boasting a 20-16 overall record entering this event. For the sake of a direct comparison, Xavier hits better than UC and pitches worse. The Musketeers are slashing .256/.356/.402 as a team with 36 home runs. If Noda is a power hitter than Rylan Bannon and Joe Gellenbeck have super powers. Bannon is batting a solid .292 and has mashed nine dingers and 24 RBI. Gellenbeck has launched eight homers and driven in 37 runs. Avoiding the home run ball will be a difficult task for the Bearcats’ pitchers. On the other side of the coin, the Musketeers have a 4.27 ERA as a staff, which is below UC’s mark but its worth noting that Xavier strikes out more batters (296 strikeouts in 316 innings).
Wright State Raiders
The defending tournament champions may just be the best team in this group of four. Based on record alone the Raiders are easily, as they are 25-8 overall while dominating the Horizon League (11-1). They’ve won 13 of their last 14 games to build up that record. Strong pitching has paved the way, as the Raiders have a 3.19 ERA as a team, while scoring 5.13 earned runs per game themselves. Derek Hendrixson has been supremely effective out of the bullpen, posting a 0.77 ERA while striking out 25 batters across 15 appearances (23 1⁄3 innings). Seth Gray (.366/.413/.504), Adrian Marquez (.315/.399/.556) and Matt Morrow (.306/.415/.419) are the top batters on the roster, which is devoid of a ton of power, with only 19 home runs.
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
UC has already run into the RedHawks this season. On April 4 in Oxford, Cincinnati worked out an 8-6 win over the hosting RedHawks, who are the weakest contender in this tournament at just 13-23 overall. The offense isn’t great, but Miami showed it can score a run or two in its first meeting with the Bearcats even if it is batting just .247 as a team with very little pop (.367 slugging percentage). Pitching has been what has held Miami back the most, despite the work of dominant reliever Nick Ernst (2.64, 24 strikeouts in 30 2⁄3 innings).
How it works
Miami and Wright State will begin the tournament today at 3 p.m. and UC and Xavier will play after that, with an approximate first pitch time of 6:30 p.m. Based on the results of the first two games, matchups will be selected with the winner of game one taking on the winner of game two and the losers of each contest facing off as well.
Who will win?
Miami is a non-factor in this one and we’ll likely be crushed by Wright State in the afternoon of day one. UC and Xavier are going t provide a tougher game and if Olasz is on and the Bearcats get some timely hitting, I like their chances to move on to the next round.
Despite playing at home, UC will have trouble with Wright State since the Raiders can pitch well. However, the Raiders aren’t a terribly powerful offense, which will open up an opportunity for the Bearcats to win.