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After Tough Series Start, Bearcats Salvage Senior Day

RJ Thompson once again powered the Bearcats, even during the losses.

Nick Brown/

The Cincinnati Bearcats struggled, especially on Friday, in a 2-1 series loss to UCF during their last three home games of the season at Marge Schott Stadium over the weekend.

As we hurtle toward the college baseball postseason, the Bearcats are still fighting for seeding in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. Currently holding the No. 6 spot in the standings, UC (27-25, 9-12) will need some help from Tulane for a chance at a higher seed following this past weekend. The Bearcats struggled to score runs until Sunday’s series finale, when they defended their seniors to escape the cruel fate of a sweep. Here’s how it all went down.

Game One - UCF 16, Cincinnati 2

A low-scoring football game broke out at Marge Schott Stadium on Friday night. Andrew Zellner made his return as the Friday starter in the contest, and he really didn’t do all that badly, even if the final score would say otherwise. The senior pushed through six innings and allowed four runs in his final start at Marge Schott Stadium. However, the bullpen was miserable, with J.T. Perez allowing two runs in 23 innings, Cal Jarrett letting up six in one frame and Isaac Olson surrendering four more in the top of the ninth. Olson was making only his fifth appearance of the season and is now sporting an ERA of 16.20, while Jarrett (15.00) has been just as bad in six outings.

UC’s bats were locked up and the key was thrown away by Robby Howell, who improved to 9-0 with seven innings of two-run ball. Jace Mercer’s two-run home run in the first inning was one of only four hits from the Bearcats, who had two knocks in the final eight innings.

Game Two - UCF 3, Cincinnati 1

At the very least, Saturday’s game was competitive, making it a step in the right direction for the Bearcats. Perez, who pitched on Friday night, did not get the start. Rather, the honor went to A.J. Kullman, who nearly threw a complete game before finally being pulled with two outs in the ninth. Kullman allowed three runs on seven hits and only struck out two batters, but he threw 107 pitches in a rather strong performance. David Orndorff came in to get the final out of the ninth and would have been in line for the win if UC had rallied in the bottom half.

Unfortunately, although they scored first once again, the Bearcats only managed one run, which came on an RBI ground out from Connor McVey, which scored R.J. Thompson, who led off the inning with a double. Thompson’s double was one of only two hits for the Bearcats. Manny Rodriguez had the other.

Game Three - Cincinnati 8, UCF 5

While a sweep seemed destined, the Bearcats found a way to finish off their home schedule with a win, doing so by way of the bat rather than the pitch. Orndorff started the game and allowed just one run over four innings. Things got worse from there. Perez was once again used in a relief role and once again failed to be very effective, giving up three runs in 1 23 innings. Nathan Kroger pitched the next three innings and Cam Alldred got his first save by getting the final out.

The subpar pitching was helped by nine left on base from UCF as well as a strong showing at the plate from Thompson and Ryan Noda. Thompson went 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored. Noda enjoyed a 2-for-3 day with three runs scored. The win allowed Thompson, McVey and Zellner to celebrate their senior day with a win.

Series MVP - R.J. Thompson

Not only was this a special weekend for Thompson in terms of his career, it was also another solid one at the plate for the UC outfielder. Thompson was the only Bearcat to get a hit in all three games and his big showing at the top of the order in his final home game was a major reason the Bearcats were able to win at all.

Thompson is now slashing .333/.410/.465 with 17 extra-base hits and 31 runs for the season, making him easily the most consistent hitter on the team, especially as A.J. Bumpass continues to slump down the stretch.

On Deck

It will be a challenging final week for the Bearcats, who visit Xavier on Tuesday and then finish the regular season with a road series against Houston, which is fighting for a regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the AAC tourney.