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Series Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats at Memphis Tigers

Two evenly matched teams with comparable records will play another three-game series.

Nick Brown/GoBearcats.com

The longest road trip of the season for the Cincinnati Bearcats will come to a close this weekend as they take a trip south to face the Memphis Tigers in a three-game series at FedEx Park.

General Info

Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (22-22, 6-9 AAC) at Memphis Tigers (24-21, 5-10 AAC)

Location: FedEx Park Memphis, Tennessee

Series History: Cincinnati nearly got swept and dropped two of three to Memphis in Cincinnati earlier this season. Memphis has been having its way with the Bearcats in baseball for years, with a 70-32 all-time record in this series.

Times/Probable Starters

  • Game One - Friday May 5 7:30 p.m. J.T. Perez (2-5, 3.99 ERA) vs. Drew Crosby (4-2, 4.22 ERA)
  • Game Two - Saturday May 6 3 p.m. Andrew Zellner (2-4, 5.44 ERA) vs. Alex Hicks (4-4, 3.99 ERA)
  • Game Three - Sunday May 7 2 p.m. TBA vs. Jonathan Bowlan (4-5, 4.57 ERA)

Meet the Opponent ... Again

If the Bearcats took a look at a blue-shaded mirror, they might find the Tigers staring back at them. Memphis is also a team hovering around .500 overall and with a less than ideal record in conference play. It most recently dropped a three-game series against UCF after being swept by USF the previous weekend. The Tigers have lost 12 of their last 15 games, but they have played a rather difficult schedule during that run, taking on defending league champion UConn, nationally ranked Houston and Arkansas as well as the two AAC teams from Florida. The last time they strung two wins together was when they took two of three from UC at the beginning of April.

In addition to having a similar record when compared to the Bearcats, the Tigers also hit like them, ranking second to last in the AAC in batting average (.253), just ahead of UC (.251). They do not have single player batting above .300, with Tyler Webb (.297/.373/.477) and Chris Carrier (.295/.403/.530) the two big sticks in the lineup. Webb and Carrier both swung well in the first series of the year. Webb, the centerfielder, went hitless in the series opener, but walked twice and went 5-of-10 in the next two games. Carrier plays right field and homered twice against the Bearcats. With eight dingers on the year, Carrier is one of a number of long ball threats on the roster, including Webb, who has five.

Memphis will utilize two starting pitchers UC has already run into in Drew Crosby and Alex Hicks, while Jonathan Bowlan will start the Sunday game. It’s also likely top relievers Colton Hathcock (2.86 ERA, 11 saves, 40 strikeouts, 28 13 innings) and Blake Bennett (3.25 ERA, 27 23 innings) will be in on the action.

Game One Breakdown

Hicks was the game one starter last time these teams collided, but it is Crosby who will start tonight. Crosby showed excellent poise when he pitched against UC , as he allowed just two runs (one earned) across 6 23 innings. He did not get the win, however, as the Bearcats showed that Hathcock isn’t unhittable, scoring two runs (one earned) off one of the league’s top closers.

UC has also shifted its rotation in the last month, as J.T. Perez now controls Friday night duties. He hung right with Crosby for the most part when they were matched up against each other in April. The southpaw fired five innings of one-run ball. He’s been going deeper into games of late, including his last start when he pitched into the eighth inning.

One batter Crosby will not be happy to see is UC right fielder A.J. Bumpass, who went 3-for-4 with two runs against the Tigers in Crosby’s last start against the Bearcats, including a 2-for-3 showing against Crosby himself. Bumpass is the most exhilarating hitter on the team. Along with his wonderful slash line (.311/.407/.530) he has 21 extra- base hits and is a major obstacle at the No. 2 spot in the order.

Game Two Breakdown

Andrew Zellner has seemingly reclaimed a rotation spot, although not the one he had to start the season. After a brief absence from the field, Zellner pitched fairly well last Sunday, allowing two earned runs over five innings. The right-hander had no such luck in his first run-in with Memphis, as he was shelled for seven runs in three innings.

On the other side, Hicks didn’t pitch like Chris Sale, but he did enough to earn his fourth win, grinding out 7 23 frames and allowing five runs (four earned). He’ll look to go deep once again, but give up fewer runs. It will be up to Bumpass, as well as UC batting average leader R.J. Thompson (.323/.399/.437), to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Game Three Breakdown

There is more mystery surrounding the series conclusion than the first two games. UC has yet to announce a starter and Memphis is rolling with Bowlan, who did not pitch any part of an inning against UC the first time. Bowlan, a 6’6” right-hander, also plays the field and has pitched to a 4.57 ERA in a team-high 63 innings, starting seven games and appearing in 15 total.

Prediction

Even though Memphis won the first series of the year between these teams, we’re talking about a set of three games decided by a combined score of 17-14, with one game needing extra innings to decide it. UC will once again give Memphis trouble, so expect a competitive series, but its one I don’t envision the Bearcats claiming.