Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (14-14, 1-2 AAC) vs. Tulane Green Wave (12-17, 2-1 AAC)
Location: Marge Schott Stadium Cincinnati, Ohio
Series History: The Green Wave have seemingly taken out their frustrations during football and basketball season on the Bearcats during the baseball campaign, with 39 wins in 48 all-time meanings. However, UC managed to steal two of three against Tulane in New Orleans last season.
- Game One - Friday April 7 6 p.m. Andrew Zellner (2-2, 4.38 ERA) vs. Corey Merrill (3-2, 4.43 ERA)
- Game Two - Saturday April 8 4 p.m. J.T. Perez (1-4, 3.98 ERA) vs. J.P. France (2-3, 4.89 ERA)
- Game Three - Sunday April 2 1 p.m. TBA vs. Chase Solesky (1-1, 2.14 ERA)
Meet the Opponent
When last we met Tulane, it was nationally ranked and on its way to a 40-win campaign and NCAA Tournament appearance. But that was nearly a year ago. Tulane is now in a much different standing than it was during the three-game series these two played last April (which Cincinnati won by the way). Entering Friday’s series opener, Tulane is 12-17 overall, although it did take two out of three from USF in its American Athletic Conference opening series last weekend.
Tulane’s biggest issue has been on the mound. As a team, the Green Wave have produced a ballooned 5.28 ERA while allowing opposing batters to hit .275. That team ERA is far and away the worst in the league, sitting nearly a run and a half below the next worst team in the AAC, which happens to be UC, but that’s neither here nor there. Two of their normal starters, Corey Merrill and J.P France, each have ERAs over 4.00, which has been a big reason for the tough road the Green Wave has traveled. However, Chase Solesky, who has pitched in 10 games and started six, has a sparkling 2.14 ERA despite striking out only 18 batters in 33 2⁄3 innings.
As brutal as the pitching has been, its not like the offense has been stellar either, at least in the average department. Only one team in the conference has a lower batting average than the Green Wave (sigh, its UC), who are at a .251 mark. However, the lineup features a ton of power, with Tulane leading the league in home runs (28), powered by Hunter Williams (three), Grant Witherspoon (three), Jarret DeHart (six), Lex Kaplan (five), Hunter Hope (four) and Jake Willsey (five).
Game One Breakdown
Last Friday was a nightmare for Andrew Zellner. The ace of Cincinnati’s staff was blown up to the tune of seven runs on six hits over just three innings of work. Normally a workhorse who can be counted on for six, seven, eight and even nine innings, Zellner has been a bit shakier this season, with his ERA now hovering at 4.38. That’s not to say he hasn’t had some strong showings, but he has not been as crisp as he was last year either.
Fortunately Merrill is sporting a very similar ERA (4.43) and has been a bit erratic with his pitches, walking 22 batters in 42 2⁄3 innings. Merrill’s stuff is still pretty great when he’s on, evidenced by his team-high 38 strikeouts, but consistency has been an issue. If there’s one player who could either feast or famine on Merrill’s offerings, its first baseman Ryan Noda. The junior leads the team in walks (19) but he is also at the top in strikeouts (25).
Game Two Breakdown
Last Saturday was a return to form for J.T. Perez, who has whittled his ERA down below 4.00 to 3.98 after his start against Memphis. Although the lefty only lasted five innings, he surrendered just one run and struck out four batters. He had a pretty even ratio when it came to fly balls (six) and ground balls (five), which was good to see after he was pounded in many of his earlier starts in the year.
France will square off with Perez in what could be a pitching duel if both throw to their potential. France did just that last Saturday against USF, scattering seven hits and two runs over 8 1⁄3 innings. He earned his second win of the season for his efforts, although he did put 127 pitches on his arm in coming two outs shy of a complete game.
It will be critical that UC jumps on France early in the hopes of getting into Tulane’s bullpen, as the team’s selection of relievers all sport an ERA above 5.00 except for Ted Andrews and Chris Oakley, who have only thrown a combined 12 2⁄3 innings. That puts some pressure on A.J. Bumpass, who has consistently batted second, while there has been a revolving door at the leadoff spot. As we’ve touched on quite a bit already, Bumpass is in the midst of a breakout year and even after going 0-for-3 against Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday, he’s still batting a robust .350.
Game Three Breakdown
It seems like we no longer need to wonder if David Orndorff has been officially made the closer for the Bearcats, which means the Sunday starting job is kind of up for grabs. Clayton Colvin seemed to have it nailed down, but he didn’t start last Sunday, which, paired with the fact UC has yet to announce a starter, means Ty Neal will once again plan on using four, five or six pitchers to carry the day. Colvin should be included in that strategy as will Jarod Yoakam and A.J. Kullman, with A.J. Olasz being saved for weekday starting duties.
There’s no doubt Neal will give any pitcher a short leash, especially if Solesky, who will start for Tulane, keeps shutting batters down at a prodigious rate.
Even if Tulane hasn’t been that great this season, there is still a lot of talent on this roster. Plus, its not as if UC has been lighting the world on fire itself. I’m not expecting a particularly fun weekend at Marge Schott for the home team.