There are no such things as moral victories, only actual victories. So the fact that the Cincinnati Bearcats played a competitive series with the No. 24 UConn Huskies this past weekend is nice, but dropping two of three means the Bearcats lost the series. While the two losses came by a combined four runs, UC plummeted from a first place tie in the American Athletic Conference to fifth place. Here’s how they got here.
Game One - Cincinnati 1, UConn 0
Holy pitching duel, Batman! In a game with only 11 combined hits, the Bearcats came out on top Friday. Pretty much all of the credit should go to JT Perez. The lefty ace for the Bearcats was sensational, spinning a complete-game shutout with a career-high 10 strikeouts. He also got UConn hitters to ground out 13 times, while allowing only six hits and a pair of walks.
But the Bearcats struggled to get the bats going themselves, manaing only five hits. However, Manny Rodriguez continued his MVP season, with his solo home run in the fourth inning serving as the lone run scored in the contest. That doomed UConn starter Mason Feole to his first loss of the season even though he pitched a complete game and struck out 14 batters.
Game Two - UConn 7, Cincinnati 6
After Friday featured very little offense, both teams got off to quick starts. The Huskies scored three runs in the top of the first and the Bearcats answered with two-run knocks from AJ Bumpass and Cole Murphy in the bottom part of the frame. Both teams added a run in each of the next two innings, but in the final six frames, UConn was the only team to score, tying the game at 6-6 in the fifth on a sac fly and scoring the winning run on a passed ball in the ninth.
Both starters were pretty dreadful in this game. Nathan Kroger only lasted three innings for the Bearcats, allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits. AJ Kullman came in and gave them a shot to win, allowing one unearned run in five relief innings, but Clayton Colvin was tagged with the loss despite getting just one out. He faced three batters and allowed a hit, a walk and an unearned run in addition to the out.
UConn’s Colby Dunlop did not fare much better than Kroger, allowing five runs in just one inning of work. However, UC only had five hits in the game, with Connor McVey going 2-for-3 with a home run and earning the only multi-hit game.
Game Three - UConn 8, Cincinnati 5
Both teams combined for 27 hits in the series finale, but UConn turned more of those hits into runs. Despite that, the Huskies still left 14 runners on base, while UC left on 11. Joey Thomas (2-for-5), Bumpass (2-for-4), McVey (2-for-4), Dondrae Bremner (2-for-5) and Eric Santiago (2-for-3) all had multi-hit games, while Cole Murphy hit his fifth home run of the season, setting a new career-high.
No UC pitcher really had much success in the losing effort. Starter Cam Alldred did last five innings, but he labored through them, allowing three runs on six hits and five walks. Colvin took another loss on the weekend after allowing three runs in two innings and Jarod Yoakam was guilty for two runs in two innings of his own.
Series MVP - JT Perez
He only pitched in the opener, but he was brilliant. The southpaw is now 4-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 10 starts this season. He has 54 strikeouts on the campaign, which is only six off his career-high and he has kept opponents to a career-low batting average of .224.
There’s no midweek baseball this week and the Bearcats will also have to wait a bit before they get a chance to make moves in the AAC, as they host Kansas next weekend and Miami-Ohio next Tuesday.