Now that the basketball season has officially ended (at least for the Cincinnati Bearcats), its time to move on to the next thing. Lost in the madness of March was the play of the UC baseball team as it continues on its journey through the first year under Scott Googins. Well no more. Here’s everything you need to know and that you might have missed during the first month of the season.
Taking a broad look at the Bearcats, you can say that they’ve been pretty average. They are 9-10 overall, with a much better record at home (6-5) than on the road (2-5). Their best win of the season is easily an 8-3 triumph over the then No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers on March 6. In that game third baseman Connor McVey went 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBI while center fielder Treg Haberkorn laced three hits and drove in a pair.
Since that victory, the Bearcats have struggled a bit more, losing five of their last seven. However, they earned a series win last weekend against Toledo.
Part of the reason UC has been able to fight to .500ish is improved results at the plate. With four different players hitting above .300, the Bearcats are currently fifth in the American Athletic Conference in team batting average (.265). However, they have scored fewer runs than any team in the league, showing that despite more hits, there has been a real issue with getting knocks in RISP situations.
Second baseman Kyle Mottice has been the most consistent bat in the lineup, with Haberkorn a close second. Mottice has slashed .325/.400/.400 through a team-high 80 at-bats. He has walked eight times and struck out only three times more than that. He also leads the team in stolen bases (five) and has teamed with shortstop Manny Rodriguez (.311/.376/.514) to form a very potent middle infield tandem. Rodriguez’s improvement has been nice to see, as he leads the team in slugging and extra-base hits (nine). As for Haberkorn, he has slashed .323/.417/.500 and contributed five doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI. Not to be forgotten, freshman outfielder Joey Wiemer is hitting .311 through his first 61 collegiate at-bats.
First baseman Cole Murphy has done a decent job replacing Ryan Noda, as he has three home runs already, but he has not been consistent enough when it comes to getting on base (.307 OBP and .227 BA). Meanwhile, A.J. Bumpass (.227/.366/.455) has flashed some power and walked more than anyone else on the roster (11). However, he has struck out more than anyone as well (23). Following his breakout 2017 season, the outfielder has regressed, but there are signs he will bounce back before the season is out.
On the pitching side, a 3.70 team ERA is pretty nice, but the Bearcats are the only team in the AAC to not have a shutout yet and they are also allowing an opponent batting average of .267, which is third-worst in the league.
Leading the way for the staff has been a rejuvenated J.T. Perez. The southpaw has returned to his 2016 form and taken on the Friday starter role. He has pitched to a 2.03 ERA and struck out 27 batters in 31 innings pitched, which is tied for the second-highest total in the AAC. In his last outing he was tagged for three runs, but only one was earned, in a win over Toledo. He also set a season-high with eight strikeouts in that contest while lasting at least six innings for the fourth-straight game.
Nathan Kroger (3.80 ERA) has been the next-best starter on the team, but it has been the bullpen work of Jarod Yoakam, Doug Lowe II and David Orndorff that has really shone brightest. Yoakam has not allowed a run in 14 1⁄3 innings (10 appearances). Lowe II has pitched in eight games and struck out seven batters in eight innings while posting a 1.13 ERA. Last, but not least, Orndorff may have a higher ERA (3.63), but he is second in the AAC in saves (four).
It is fortuitous that we should be checking back in with the Bearcats today, as they begin conference play with a three-game set against the Tulane Green Wave this weekend. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 tonight in New Orleans.