While our eyes were focused squarely on BB&T Arena and the Wichita State Shockers (basketball version), the Cincinnati Bearcats (baseball version) were busy having a strong start to the Scott Googins era. The former Xavier head coach and current Bearcats leader was at the helm for the first time for the Bearcats, who went 2-1 in a swing into California over the weekend.
Game One - Cincinnati 3, California 1
J.T. Perez made the first start of the season for the Bearcats, who began the campaign on Saturday against the Golden Bears. Following a disappointing 2017, Perez looked more like the guy with a sub-3.00 ERA from 2016. He only last five innings, but in that time he let up just one run while striking out five. He also didn’t walk a single batter and turned the ball over to the bullpen, which shone brightly, particularly David Orndorff, who closed out the game with three scoreless innings and three strikeouts.
Speaking of good starts, the Bearcats certainly had one on offense, as leadoff hitter Kyle Mottice smashed a home run to right field in his first at-bat. Mottice went 2-for-4 with two RBI, but he wasn’t the only Bearcat to go deep, as shortstop Manny Rodriguez also connected for a solo dinger in the fourth inning.
Game Two - Cincinnati 7, San Diego 4 (10 innings)
The second game of the season (and first of a double-header on Sunday) went a little long, but the Bearcats still prevailed. Even though the bullpen let a 4-2 lead slip away in the eighth inning, UC found a way to win in the 10th thanks to a sac fly RBI from Rodriguez and a two-run single from Treg Haberkorn. Although Haberkorn’s hit was clearly the decisive blow, Cole Murphy’s three-run home run in the second inning was the biggest blast of the game and a welcome sight as Murphy takes over first base for slugger Ryan Noda.
Cam Alldred got the start for the Bearcats in this one and he did OK. He only allowed two runs and struck out four in five innings, but he was a little erratic, walking four batters. A.J. Kullman was responsible for letting that 4-2 edge disappear, but Reese Robinson closed out the game with a perfect 10th inning, which included two strikeouts.
Game Three- San Diego 4, Cincinnati 3
In the final game of the weekend, the bullpen struggles that hurt a bit earlier in the day returned. The Bearcats led 3-2 entering the bottom of the ninth but Jalen Wade and Tanner Schimmoeller combined to allow the two runs that won the game for San Diego.
The loss wasted a strong start from Nathan Kroger (six innings, two earned runs allowed) and a 2-for-3 showing from Connor McVey.
Series MVP - Kyle Mottice
The Bearcats’ second baseman was as consistent as you could ask from a leadoff hitter. He slashed .357/.400/.643 with two extra-base hits and also played perfectly defensively. Murphy is the runner-up for this award thanks to his home run and four RBI as well as his .364/.417/.636 triple slash.
What’s even more impressive about this 2-1 start is the fact that the Bearcats got very little from their two best hitters. McVey slashed (.222/.500/.333) and A.J. Bumpass had just one hit in 11 at-bats. Both they and the rest of the Bearcats will have another chance to earn some more wins next weekend in a three-game set against Sam Houston State.