Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (24-23) vs. Xavier Musketeers (25-21)
Location: Marge Schott Stadium Cincinnati, Ohio
Series History: Xavier pounded UC to the tune of a 9-1 victory in the first round of the Joe Nuxhall Classic on April 18. It was a change of pace for the lengthy all-time series, which UC leads 63-42.
Time/Probably Starters: 11 a.m./Cam Alldred (2-0, 3.45) vs. Trent Astle (3-1, 6.75)
Meet the Opponent ... Again
Brad Kirschner threw a gem and the bullpen did the rest for Xavier when these teams met in the Joe Nuxhall Classic. Kirschner allowed just one earned run over six innings and Trey Schramm (two scoreless innings) and Jason Hall (one scoreless inning) locked it up. But Kirschner is not slated to start on Tuesday. That honor will go to Trent Astle. The senior lefty has pitched in 11 games, making nine starts, but has been less than effective. He’s given up 57 hits in 41 1⁄3 innings and has an ERA of 6.75. To his credit, he doesn’t shy away from putting pitches in the strike zone, with only seven walks thrown. However, pounding the zone hurts when opponents are hitting .337 off of you.
Third baseman Rylan Bannon smashed a three-run home run against the Bearcats earlier this year, which was his 10th of the season. Bannon has continued to crush baseballs since then, as he is slashing .325/.451/.651 with 26 extra-base hits, including 13 home runs, and 14 stolen bases. First baseman Conor Grammes only went 1-for-4 against UC in the first game, but he is a solid hitter as well, slashing .305/.349/.454 this season. Those two make up the heart of the order, with stolen base wizard Will LaRue (21 steals) and right fielder Joe Gellenbeck (.271/.390/.488, eight home runs, 45 RBI) providing more dangers for the Bearcats’ pitching staff.
Speaking of the staff, with five games over the next six days, it will be all arms on deck for the Bearcats this week. The first guy to take the hill will be sophomore southpaw Cam Alldred, who will be making his first start of the season. In 15 2⁄3 innings out of the bullpen, Alldred has been effective, with a 3.45 ERA and 12 strikeouts. However, he has had some trouble locating pitches, with 13 walks. Its unlikely that Ty Neal will push Alldred deep into this game, but it wouldn’t hurt if the second-year pitcher could eat up some innings.
With Astle on the mound, the Bearcats need to jump on the Musketeers early. That is something they are capable of doing with their two best hitters in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. Center fielder R.J. Thompson has quietly put together a nice season as the leadoff hitter, slashing .322/.396/.439 and walking 23 times compared to 23 strikeouts. A.J. Bumpass plays a great right field and is having a breakout season in the two-hole, slashing .297/.306/.506 with 22 extra-base hits. Then there’s Ryan Noda, who is only batting .231 but is the most fearsome hitter in the lineup in terms of power, with seven home runs.
Xavier just got swept by Indiana and isn’t exactly a powerhouse on the diamond. Cincinnati is still struggling offensively as a whole, but Astle might be the type of pitcher that will awaken the lineup. If Alldred and the rest of the staff can tip-toe around the minefield of Bannon and Grames, UC should score enough to win.