After a much-deserved week off, the Cincinnati Bearcats will return to the diamond this weekend, just not against an American Athletic Conference opponent. That’s right, with the Kansas Jayhawks flying in, the Bearcats will clash with a Big 12 competitor at Marge Schott Stadium.
Matchup: Kansas Jayhawks (19-21, 3-11 Big 12) at Cincinnati Bearcats (19-19, 8-7 AAC)
Location: Marge Schott Stadium Cincinnati, Ohio
Series History: There is none. UC and KU have never played baseball against each other.
- Game One - Friday April 27 6 p.m. J.T. Perez (4-3, 2.45) vs. Ryan Zeferjahn (6-2, 4.29 ERA)
- Game Two - Saturday April 28 6 p.m. Nathan Kroger (1-2, 4.17) vs. Jackson Goddard (4-0, 3.60 ERA)
- Game Three - Sunday April 29 1 p.m. Cam Alldred (3-2, 4.22) vs. Taylor Turksi (1-6, 6.10 ERA)
Who are the Kansas Jayhawks?
Things have not been going great for Kansas recently. The Jayhawks are currently marred in an eight-game losing streak, including a 14-5 setback against UC’s fellow conference member Wichita State this past week. It was the 13th time this season that they have allowed double digit runs and right there is the problem: Kansas doesn’t pitch very well.
It starts with a 6.23 team ERA, which is dead last in the Big 12 as you might imagine. Opponents are batting .279 against the Jayhawks as well, while walking 191 times, which accounts to 4.8 free passes per game. Only four pitchers on the roster have an ERA below 4.00, including junior right-hander Jackson Goddard, who will start Saturday.
If not for the poor pitching, the Jayhawks could be a pretty decent team because they hit fairly well. While they can’t lay claim to having a ton of power (27 home runs), they at least make solid contact frequently, batting .272 as a team. They aren’t a very aggressive team on the base paths though, with only 25 stolen bases .
Catcher Jaxx Groshans (.329/.370/.493) is a real force at the backstop, but Devin Foyle is probably the team’s most well-rounded hitter. The left-fielder leads the team in home runs (seven), extra base hits (21), slugging percentage (.574) and is second in on-base percentage (.405) by a fraction. Brett Vosik (.336/.406/.414) and Brendt Citta (.303/.396/.421) are also hitters the Bearcats will need to be careful with.
Game One Breakdown
UC’s biggest advantage in this series will be on the mound and it starts right away. J.T. Perez just threw the best game of his career last Friday against a nationally-ranked UConn team, allowing only six hits and not a single run during a complete-game effort. He also struck out 10 batters in the game, improving his ERA to 2.45 and strikeout to walk ratio to, well how about that, 2.45.
Ryan Zeferjahn will oppose Perez. The right-hander has thrown the second-most innings for Kansas this year, with 50 1⁄3 frames completed. He is only letting teams bat .228 against him and has more strikeouts than anyone else on the roster, but he has been susceptible to the long ball. He was having a perfectly fine season before his last start when he allowed 10 runs in 3 2⁄3 innings against Oklahoma State.
Cole Murphy is a batter that could make an impression in this one. Despite batting only .196 on the season, he has managed to rank second on the team in home runs (5). If he gets a hold of one, it could really boost an offense that we already know is going to be carried by Manny Rodriguez and Kyle Mottice.
Game Two Breakdown
As mentioned previously, Goddard gets the ball for Kansas on Saturday. He has only thrown 25 innings in five starts, but he has struck out 28 batters and kept his ERA in a reasonable range. He only lasted four innings last time out, but he didn’t allow a run and struck out a season-high eight batters. Its highly likely that the Jayhawks will dip into the bullpen a few times in this one. Goddard has not pitched past the sixth inning and in three of his outings has not recorded an out past the fifth.
Depending on which version of Nathan Kroger the Bearcats get, they may need to use the bullpen a bunch as well. Last week against UConn he surrendered five runs (three earned) in only three innings of work. He has let up nine earned runs in his last eight innings. However, in the two games before that he allowed only one earned run in 13 innings.
Game Three Breakdown
Similar to Kroger, Sunday starter Cam Alldred has had moments of brilliance dampened recently. He had back-to-back scoreless outings of at least 6 2⁄3 innings against Tulane and Houston, but his ERA has been creeping up recently, particularly after allowing three earned runs in back-to-back five-inning starts against UCF and UConn. No matter what happens, we know he’ll get punchouts, as his 55 in 53 1⁄3 innings are the most on the team.
Alldred’s margin for error should be a bit wider this time around. Taylor Turski is scheduled to start for Kansas despite a 6.10 ERA and 1-6 record in a team-high 51 2⁄3 innings.
On paper, the Bearcats’ pitching should prove to be a real advantage this weekend. While Kansas isn’t a horrible hitting team by any stretch of the imagination, it isn’t so prolific that Perez can’t put forth a quality start at the very least. As long as the Bearcats are able to hit the pitchers Kansas puts out there, a series win is more than possible.