Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (27-25) at Xavier Musketeers (25-25)
Location: Hayden Field Cincinnati, Ohio
Series History: This is the third and final meeting between these crosstown rivals this season. They have split the first two, with Xavier blasting its way to a 9-1 win in the Joe Nuxhall Classic and Cincinnati returning the favor with a 10-8 win on May 9. Cincinnati leads the all-time series 64-42.
Time/Probably Starters: 3 p.m./Cam Alldred (2-0, 2.86 ERA) vs. Trent Astle (3-1, 6.54 ERA)
Meet The Opponent ... Once Again
We’ve already gotten to know the Musketeers pretty well, as this is the third matchup between the Bearcats and Muskies this season. Rylan Bannon is the bat to be feared with his 13 home runs and Ruthian slash line (.335/.453/.632). But Bannon is more than just a power bat, as he has 17 steals in 18 tries and he works counts well, with 30 walks. Conor Grammes (.309/.351/.463) has launched five home runs of his own and has 18 extra-base hits in total while Joe Gellenbeck (.265/.383/.465) has eight home runs and a team-high 46 RBI.
UC likely won’t have to see too many of Xavier’s pitchers, which is good and bad depending on your outlook. The X has a staff ERA of 4.85, which isn’t all that great, even though they’ve gotten nice work out of starters Zac Lowther (3.38 ERA, 99 strikeouts in 64 innings) and Garrett Schilling (3.80 ERA) as well as reliever Matt Kent 1.24 ERA in 43 2⁄3 innings).
Xavier will once again try to tame the ‘Cats with Trent Astle, who didn’t pitch well against them earlier this season. He was tagged for five runs in as many innings during UC’s 10-8 win on May 9. Overall, Astle has been far from effective, with a bulbous 6.54 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 52 1⁄3 innings of work. In that second game, Cam Alldred twirled six innings of one-run ball and he is currently the tentative starter for this one. That is, of course, subject to change since Ty Neal has shown creativity with the rotation all season.
The Bearcats will need to be careful with Bannon, who is 3-for-10 with a home run against them this season. Connor McVey has taken a step back this season but has been successful against Xavier, going 2-for-3 in the first meeting and 2-for-4 with two runs scored in the second. Ryan Noda also homered in the last meeting and has been swinging one of the hotter bats on the squad.
Another thing to watch out for will be Xavier’s willingness to steal. The Musketeers are a top 50 team in the country in stolen bases (69) and they’ve had two against the Bearcats, but remember that Joey Thomas is sitting behind the plate and he is better than any player in the American Athletic Conference in gunning down base runners.
This game will be played on Xavier’s home turf after the first two were played at Marge Schott Stadium. I’m not sure how much home field advantage Xavier has, but a 14-3 mark in such circumstances points to a large one. With Astle going, that doesn’t strike too much fear into my heart, but it still will be the difference in what should be a high-scoring affair.