The Cincinnati Bearcats baseball team made sure the Memphis Tigers did not claim the season series between the two American Athletic Conference teams by taking two out of three at FedEx Park this past weekend.
The series win was the second of the conference variety for the Bearcats and the fourth of the campaign overall. With wins in three of their last four games, the Bearcats have lifted themselves over the .500 level (24-23) and to 8-10 in league action. They are still circling the drain in the conference standings, currently seated sixth, ahead of Memphis and East Carolina and two games back of UConn and Tulane for fourth.
Now let’s take a look at what happened over the weekend to get us here.
Game One - Memphis 9, Cincinnati 4
The Bearcats dug themselves into a 4-0 hole early on and were never really able to get close again. J.T. Perez only lasted through 2 1⁄3 innings as the starter, allowing six hits and three earned runs (five total). Unearned runs hurt the Bearcats a ton as five of the nine runs the Tigers scored came due to or after an error. Joey Thomas and Vince Augustine committed the two costly mistakes and went 0-for-5 combined. But let’s not place all the blame on those two. Along with Perez’s issues, Reese Robinson and Nathan Kroger struggled out of the bullpen, allowing seven hits and five walks combined. Even if errors made many of the runs unearned, the Tigers would have still had plenty of men on base, as they still finished with 11 left on.
Cincinnati had no such issue, lscoring four runs on only five hits. Ryan Noda, who came in for Kyle Mottice in the fourth, hit a two-run triple in the fifth which was part of the largest rally of the game for UC, resulting in three runs on as many hits.
Game Two - Cincinnati 13, Memphis 6
We’ll get to the offensive eruption that occurred on Saturday, but first let’s talk about Andrew Zellner, who looked like his former self. He struck out five batters in six innings and allowed just a single run, earning his third win of the season after hurling 106 pitches. In doing so, Zellner whittled his ERA back below 5.00 and showed that he still has “it.” Whether or not he continues to pitch well is for future us to find out, but it was good to see the Zellner of old back on the mound.
Now to the offense, which was in full gear. The Bearcats had 14 hits as a team, including multi-hit games from R.J. Thompson (3-for-5, three runs), Connor McVey (3-for-5, two runs, two RBI), Thomas (3-for-4, two RBI) and Mottice (2-for-5, two runs). Thompson smacked two doubles along the way and Noda launched his seventh home run of the campaign. Surprisingly, the Bearcats scored all those runs despite an 0-for-3 day from A.J. Bumpass.
Game Three - Cincinnati 2, Memphis 1
A.J. Kullman and David Orndorff combined for a stellar outing on the mound and the Bearcats got some timely offensive production in the final innings to escape with the series win. Kullman let up just one run across five innings as the starter and Orndorff grabbed the win thanks to four shutout innings of relief.
Of course, Kullman and Orndorff were both outpitched by Memphis’ starter Jonathan Bowlan, who struck out nine batters and had a no-hitter going into the eighth before Eric Santiago singled. Later in the inning, Kyle Mottice hit an RBI double off of Memphis’ excellent reliever Colton Hathcock in the bottom of the eighth and Luke Turino hit an RBI single in the ninth to score the winning run.
Series MVP - R.J. Thompson
I’d like to give this to Kullman or Orndorff because they both pitched so well on Sunday, but that was just in one game. Thompson did go 0-for-4 on Sunday, but he was an important player all weekend, going 1-for-4 on Friday and 3-for-5 on Saturday. Thompson is now the only player on the team batting over .300 while playing a solid center field. His bat-on-ball and plate discipline skills are even more impressive considering he has as many strikeouts as walks (23). That’s not an easy task and is something you definitely want out of a leadoff hitter.
This will be a busy week for the Bearcats, who host Xavier and Western Carolina on Tuesday and Wednesday before a weekend series against UCF.