Yesterday was a rough day for Cincinnati Bearcats baseball. There were three different ways the day could have gone and it ultimately followed the worst possible line. As they opened play in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, the Bearcats were certainly not favored to win the whole thing, but back-to-back losses to UConn (6-2) and USF (9-4) in the span of roughly eight hours ended any Cinderella hopes.
In the loss to the Huskies, the Bearcats struggled mightily to get the bat on the ball. Aside from a two-run home run from Eric Santiago in the sixth, UC was flummoxed by UConn ace Mason Feole, who used a sweeping curveball to great effect in racking up 11 strikeouts in seven innings of work. Cam Alldred also had his strikeout stuff working, tallying seven Ks, but he made a few mistakes and was handed the loss after giving up five runs in 6 1⁄3 innings.
After losing to the Huskies, the Bearcats had to turn right around and try to bounce back against No. 2 seed USF. The game started on a great note, as Kyle Mottice led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run that gave UC the lead. Mottice went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored in the game, but it didn’t matter, as staff ace J.T. Perez did not have his best stuff. He pitched into the sixth inning, but was chased out after allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out six. Clayton Colvin and Jarod Yoakam combined to let up another five runs (three earned) as the Bulls held off a late rally from the Bearcats.
The Bearcats had and still have no at-large bid hopes for the NCAA Tournament, meaning the first year of the Scott Googins has come to an end. It was a perfectly solid year, with the Bearcats going 28-28 overall and 12-12 in league play. However, they did lose their last four games, including yesterday’s setbacks, which is going to leave a sour taste until next season. That’s largely because the Bearcats just haven’t been able to get over the hump in the postseason.
Winning as many games as it lost doesn’t peg UC as a powerhouse in the AAC, but it continues a positive trend for the program. Just last year, the Bearcats went 28-30 and 10-14 in league play and the year before that they only won 19 games. The last time they had a record at or above .500 was 2011. So they were better in 2018, but as Googins builds the program up, his sights have to be set on getting even just a little momentum in the AAC tournament. In 2017, the Bearcats dropped their first two games in the conference tourney to go home early, matching the same output from the 2016, 2015, 2011, 2010 and 2009 seasons while they didn’t even qualify in 2014, 2013 or 2012. The last time they won a game in the postseason was in 2008 when they won three-straight games to earn a spot in the Big East championship where they ultimately lost to Louisville.
After a decade of postseason futility, its clear that the Bearcats are still far from where they want or need to be. To get there, they need to continue to take steps forward and the next one is surviving past the first two games of a conference tournament.