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Game Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Western Carolina Catamounts

No time off for the Bearcats tonight as they host Western Carolina a day after beating Xavier.

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General Info

Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (25-23) vs. Western Carolina Catamounts (24-23)

Location: Marge Schott Stadium Cincinnati, Ohio

Series History: A.J. Olasz pitched 5 13 scoreless innings to lead UC to a 3-1 win over the Catamounts last May. It was their second win in as many meetings during the extremely short all-time series between these programs.

Time/Probably Starters: 6 p.m./TBA vs. Michael Davis (0-0, 5.06)

Meet the Opponent

Just like Cincinnati, Western Carolina has already played this week, as it tangled with Kennesaw State on Monday. Things did not go the Catamounts’ way, as they fell 7-1. The top of the order did their part, with shortstop and leadoff hitter Brett Pope going 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored while second baseman Nobu Suzuki went 3-for-4 with a RBI out of the two hole. Normally, the Catamounts are a fearsome group with the lumber, slashing .311/.389/.465 as a team. Pope (.359/.411/.485) and Suzuki (.358/.452/.491) are ideal table setters, especially with how often Suzuki gets on base. Usually those get the engine going nicely for center fielder Bryson Bowman, who leads the team in average (.378), on-base percentage (.471), slugging percentage (.611), home runs (nine) and RBI (50). Unfortunately, he went 0-for-3 against Kennesaw State although he did walk twice.

A weak showing from the pitching staff was not as big a surprise on Monday. The Catamounts have a team ERA of 5.83, which is why their offense has only managed to build a middling 24-23 overall record. Bryan Sammons (3.39 ERA, 82 13 innings, 90 strikeouts) is an excellent foundational starter to put out on Friday nights but the rest of the week is a struggle. Sophomore Michael Davis will try to buck that trend when he makes his third start of the season tonight. Davis has pitched to a 5.06 ERA in 10 23 innings overall.

Game Breakdown

No starter has been announced for the Bearcats, but its entirely possible that Olasz will find his way to the hill once again in this year’s episode with the Catamounts. He hasn’t pitched since last Tuesday and has nine starts under his belt this year, making him a fresh arm with starting experience. That’s just what Ty Neal will want as he tries to navigate a busy week without draining any of his pitchers too much. It will be imperative that Olasz pitch better than he did last time out when he allowed four runs in two innings, as the Bearcats can’t afford to be dipping into the bullpen early with three more games on the schedule this week.

In Tuesday’s dust-up with Xavier, Joey Thomas came up big from the seventh spot in the order. The Bearcats catcher went 3-for-4 with two RBI, making up for a surprisingly silent day at the top of the order from R.J. Thompson (0-for-5) and A.J. Bumpass (0-for-4). Ryan Noda, who has been dropped in the order despite his power numbers, blasted off for his eighth home run against Xavier, but he is still batting just .233 this season. Meanwhile, Thomas has been a solid bat, slashing .282/.323/.345. He may not walk or hit for power, but he makes contact fairly well despite 34 strikeouts. Thomas may have some issues on Wednesday, as the Catamounts are a staff that relies on the punchout, but Davis doesn’t fit that mold, with six Ks.

Prediction

Even if he was smacked around against Wright State last Tuesday, Olasz has been a solid mid-week pitcher this season and should at least be able to eat up enough innings to let UC’s bats find some success. They did so against Xavier on Tuesday behind Thomas. If Thompson and Bumpass get back to business and Thomas or another hitter or two steps up, UC will come out on top of another offensive showcase.