For the second-straight week, the Cincinnati Bearcats will take on a team from the Sunflower State, as they visit the Wichita State Shockers in a return to American Athletic Conference action at Eck Stadium.
The Bearcats were unable to make up any ground in the AAC but won three-straight games against Kansas last weekend. Unfortunately, the winning ended on Tuesday when they lost to Miami (Ohio) 7-2. AJ Olasz made the start and was hit with four runs over 3 1⁄3 innings. But the pitching wasn’t nearly as bad as the offense, as the Bearcats had only four hits in 29 at-bats while striking out 10 times and leaving as many on base.
Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats (22-20, 8-7 AAC) at Wichita State Shockers (28-14, 5-10 AAC)
Location: Eck Stadium, Wichita, Kansas
Series History: This is the first year these teams have shared the same conference. They never met in non-conference play.
- Game One - Friday May 4 7 p.m. J.T. Perez (5-3, 2.52) vs. Codi Heuer (5-4, 4.66)
- Game Two - Saturday May 5 3 p.m. Nathan Kroger (1-2, 4.45) vs. Tyler Davis (1-0, 2.91)
- Game Three - Sunday May 6 11:30 a.m. Cam Alldred (4-2, 4.18) vs. TBD
Who are the Wichita State Shockers?
Usually, good teams have both pleasant records in non-conference play and within their league. That is not the case with Wichita State, which is 28-14 overall, but just 5-10 against the AAC. That mark has the Shockers ahead of only Memphis (2-13) in the league standings. A tough part of the schedule has not helped, with UConn, Houston and UCF their last three conference foes. In those three series, they went a combined 2-7. They have lost five of their last seven overall.
For a team with the type of offense that Wichita State has, the constant losing is pretty unforgivable. No team in the AAC has scored as many runs (281) or hit as many dingers (42) as the Shockers, who boast seven players batting above .290. Third baseman Alec Bohm (.327/.431/.556) is going to be the most dangerous hitter the UC pitching staff will have to deal with. He has launched nine home runs (including three grand slams), and driven in 40 runs. In addition, he has a spectacular eye, walking 30 times compared to 20 strikeouts.
But the Bearcats can’t just treat Bohm like a 2004 Barry Bonds, because the rest of the lineup is dangerous as well. Luke Ritter can play multiple positions and is a splendid leadoff hitter, slashing .321/.401/.509 with six home runs and a team-high 43 runs scored. Gunnar Troutwine (.298/.391/.496) and Greyson Jenista (.291/.437/.466) both have a ton of power and a disciplined approach.
Wichita State also has a pretty solid pitching staff, although the strength is more in the bullpen then the starting rotation. Friday starter Codi Heuer has strikeout stuff, with 60 in 56 innings, and he’s also allowed just a .216 opponent batting average, but his 4.66 ERA is too high. Tyler Davis will be on the mound on Saturday, making his fourth start of the season. He has a 2.91 ERA in 34 innings. In all, the Shockers have a 3.89 team ERA, with bullpen dynamos like Keylan Killgore (2.70 ERA, 23 1⁄3 innings) and Tommy Barnhouse (2.96 ER, 27 1⁄3 innings) two of the more prominent relievers.
Game One Breakdown
Heuer threw a complete game against Houston two weeks ago, but he struggled last week against UCF, allowing three earned runs despite not letting up a hit. The problem was he couldn’t find the plate, as he walked four batters before Killgore came in and had an uncharacteristically bad performance, allowing four runs on just one hit and a walk.
Speaking of steps backward, UC ace JT Perez didn’t have his best stuff against Kansas last weekend, but he still went 5 1⁄3 innings while allowing two earned runs. He leads the Bearcats in innings pitched (71 1/3) and his 2.52 ERA has been just what the doctor ordered after a slow 2017.
Game Two Breakdown
The Shockers believe in Davis as a starter and they should. He put forth a solid effort in a start last Saturday, lasting six innings while he allowed only three earned runs on seven hits and just one walk. He also struck out five batters in that time, bringing his total for the season to 31.
While Perez should be just fine, Nathan Kroger could really use a bounce back outing. He has allowed 13 runs in his last three starts, which have lasted a total of 13 innings combined. He made it threw five frames against Kansas, but was slammed for eight hits and four runs while striking out only two batters. He is now 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA and a .279 opponent batting average.
Game Three Breakdown
Luckily for the Bearcats, Cam Alldred was back on his ish last weekend, as he threw seven innings for the first time since March. He did allow three runs in that contest, but struck out seven batters and got the win to improve to 4-2. Alldred doesn’t always put zeros on the board, but he is the best strikeout pitcher on the roster, with 62 in 60 1⁄3 innings.
Wichita State has not named its Sunday starter yet, but if they go with the same plan as last week, Liam Eddy will be on the hill. He is 6-3 with a 3.95 ERA across 11 starts and 54 2⁄3 innings.
UC is not going to sweep Wichita State like it did Kansas last weekend. That doesn’t mean the Bearcats can’t win the series, but they will need to swing the bats better than they did against Miami. Manny Rodriguez (.304/.376/.601) wasn’t in the lineup for that game, so his return should give them a boost, but probably not enough to take more than one game against the Shockers.