It appeared that the Cincinnati Bearcats had finally found their rhythm. After struggling through the non-conference part of the schedule, including a 1-9 mark through the first 10 games, the Bearcats took two of three — on the road no less — against the USF Bulls in their first American Athletic Conference series last weekend. The other shoe dropped and dropped hard this past weekend, as the Bearcats were outscored 33-12 over the course of a three-game series with the Tulane Green Wave. They somehow avoided the sweep, but it was a pretty brutal weekend all the same. Let’s take a look at the details.
Game One - Tulane 19 Cincinnati 4
It was clear very early on that this first part of a Friday double-header was not going UC’s way. The Green Wave put four runs on the board in the first inning, led 7-1 after two frames and were even more comfortably ahead (16-3) when the fourth inning came to a close.
In defense of starter A.J. Kullman, four of the runs scored against him were unearned, which was quite a surprise for a UC team that led the AAC in fielding percentage entering the weekend. However, Kullman allowed five earned runs, equating to a total of nine total. He labored through a 94-pitch outing all the same, but couldn’t get past the third inning as his ERA ballooned to 5.73 and his record dropped to 0-5.
UC’s less than stellar bullpen did Kullman no favors in relief. Isaac Olson was the first pitcher out of the pen and recorded more earned runs allowed (four) than outs (one). Nick Murray (three innings, one earned run) and Clayton Colvin (2 2⁄3 innings, three earned runs) fared only slightly better, as UC’s pitching staff didn’t give the offense much of a chance to rally.
Jace Mercer had a perfect day at the plate in terms of getting on base. He went 2-for-2 with a double and also walked three times, catapulting his team-high total to 20 for the season. Shortstop Joey Bellini (2-for-5) and third baseman Eric Santiago (2-for-4) also had multi-hit games, with Santiago knocking in a pair of runs as well.
Game Two - Tulane 8 Cincinnati 1
I guess the pitching staff was better in the second part of Friday’s double-header, but not by a considerable margin. Tulane jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first four innings, producing eight hits off of starter Evan Shawver. The freshman southpaw was making his first career start and as much as things got away from him, there were some positives. He struck out five batters across five innings and logged 91 total pitches.
Even if Shawver had been better, the day still probably would have ended in disappointment. The Bearcats went just 5-for-31 as a team with Santiago’s triple in the fourth inning the lone extra base hit.
Game Three - Cincinnati 7 Tulane 6
UC avoided the sweep but nearly collapsed in doing so. After climbing to a 7-1 lead through three innings, they slowly allowed the Green Wave to inch their way back. Garrett Schoenle, who had been putting up ace-like efforts most of the season, struggled with his control and walked seven batters in just three innings. He also allowed three runs and his replacement, Drake Batcho, let up two, although he earned the win by throwing three innings. Nathan Moore and Chase Stewart combined to pitch a clean seventh inning and then Korren Thompson earned his fourth save by finishing off the final two innings, although he made things interesting by allowing a home run in the eighth inning.
UC got to seven runs by succeeding in its usual strategy of being aggressive on the base paths. They scored those runs with just one extra base hit and three steals, with one apiece from Santiago, Mercer and Jeremy Johnson. Santiago also went 2-for-4 with a RBI and first baseman Cole Murphy had a two-hit afternoon of his own. In addition, A.J. Bumpass contributed two RBI on a 1-for-4 day.
Series MVP - Eric Santiago
During the course of the weekend, Santiago went 5-for-12 with four RBI and a pair of extra-base hits. The UC third baseman is still not having the best season at the plate, but he boosted his batting average to .212 and more than doubled his RBI total, which now stands at seven.
The 10-16 Bearcats will face the Ohio State Buckeyes in a midweek game on Wednesday before traveling to visit the UConn Huskies next weekend.