As it rubs shoulders with the middle of the American Athletic Conference, the Cincinnati Bearcats will try to catapult themselves into the top portion of the standings when they invite the Memphis Tigers to Marge Schott Stadium for a three-game set this weekend.
Matchup: Memphis Tigers (9-20, 1-5 AAC) at Cincinnati Bearcats (12-14, 3-3 AAC)
Location: Marge Schott Stadium Cincinnati, Ohio
Series History: An RBI single from Memphis in the bottom of the 10th inning crushed UC’s AAC Tournament hopes last season, as the Tigers survived with a 15-14 win and eliminated the Bearcats. The win was the 65th in 106 all-time meetings between these two programs for Memphis.
- Game One - Friday April 6 4 p.m. J.T. Perez (2-3, 2.51) vs. Riley Cabral (4-3, 3.03)
- Game Two - Saturday April 7 4 p.m. Nathan Kroger (0-1, 3.37) vs. Jonathan Bowlan (0-4, 3.26 ERA)
- Game Three - Sunday April 8 1 p.m. Cam Alldred (2-2, 4.23) vs. Alex Hicks (2-4, 5.67)
Who are the Memphis Tigers?
Right now, Memphis is the worst team in the AAC. The Tigers are the only team in the conference with fewer than 10 total wins, and with just a 1-5 record in conference play, they are in dead last. Poor batting has been the culprit. The Tigers are hitting a league-worst .239 this season, while slugging just .340 and getting on base at a .333 clip. That has led to only 123 runs scored, which is better than only one team in the league (Cincinnati has scored 115).
Center fielder Tyler Webb (.336/.406/.509) has done his best to keep the offense relevant, as he has 16 extra-base hits and leads the team in most offensive categories, including stolen bases (six). Webb had one of only four hits for the Tigers in their last game against Ole Miss. They were routed 12-0 in that contest, marking their seventh-straight loss and 11th in the last 13 games. Joining Webb in the .300 club is first baseman Kyle Ouellette (.303/.345/.413) who is also tied for the team-lead in home runs with three.
The Tigers have a few reliable arms, particularly in the starting rotation, where Riley Cabral (4-3, 3.03 ERA) and Jonathan Bowlan (0-4, 3.26) have both been reasonably effective. However, the bullpen is not a major strength, even if Hunter Smith (3.75 ERA, 13 appearances) and Blake Bennett (4.12 ERA, 16 appearances) have eaten up innings.
Game One Breakdown
J.T. Perez will return to the mound this afternoon as he continues his redemption tour. The left-hander did not allow an earned run over seven innings last week against Houston, but he was handed his third loss because the Cougars scored three unearned runs off of him. Still, Perez has allowed one or fewer earned runs in five of his eight starts this season.
Countering Perez for Memphis will be Cabral who is coming off his best start of the season. Against UCF last week, he twirled six shutout innings and struck out nine batters to earn his fourth win. The right-handed junior has not usually been such a strikeout maestro, with only 34 in 38 2⁄3 innings this season.
Game Two Breakdown
Nathan Kroger will step in to fill the role of No. 2 starter, much as he has this whole season. The sophomore right-handed has taken nicely to the starting rotation, with a 3.37 ERA across 34 2⁄3 innings. He was on point last weekend against Houston, as he matched a season-high with six innings pitched while allowing just one unearned run. Kroger relies on getting soft contact, as he has only 24 strikeouts this season.
This is a game that proves that wins are a highly fallible statistic when it comes to evaluating pitchers. While Kroger is 0-1 this season despite being solid, Memphis’ game two starter, Bowlan, is somehow 0-4, despite sporting a 3.26 ERA and a team-high 51 strikeouts in 38 2⁄3 innings.
Game Three Breakdown
There is no pitcher on the Bearcats on a roll like Cam Alldred is. He has not allowed a run across his last two starts (13 2⁄3 innings), while striking out 14 batters and allowing only six hits and four walks. He’ll take the hill on Sunday, hopefully with a chance to earn UC a series win.
This is perhaps the game most leaning in favor of the Bearcats, as Alex Hicks will be Memphis’ starter. Hicks has thrown 33 1⁄3 innings, and actually has a lower batting average allowed than Cabral and Bowlan, but his unsightly 5.67 ERA shows that he has not been very effective in stopping teams from scoring.
It’s difficult to tell just how bad Memphis is because it has played a very difficult stretch recently, facing Houston and nationally ranked teams like Arkansas, UCF and Ole Miss in its last seven games. Still, its not as if the Tigers were launching dingers and shutting down opponents before those seven games. The Bearcats are not a very good offensive team either, so this should be another weekend of low-scoring games, which should favor UC and its superior bullpen. Bearcats take two of three.