In the midst of a week of upheaval across Cincinnati’s athletic department, the baseball team had one of its busiest stretches of the season, competing five times in the span of seven days thanks to a two-game stint in the Joe Nuxhall Classic and a three-game weekend series against the UCF Knights. Thanks to some timely hitting and the occasional brilliant pitching performance, the Bearcats were able to split their games during the week and take two of three over the weekend. Let’s take a closer look.
Game One - Cincinnati 2 Xavier 1
Winning against the Musketeers is always satisfying but especially when you get the kind of start that David Orndorff supplied last Tuesday in the Bearcats’ first game of the Joe Nuxhall Classic. The redshirt senior right-hander tossed six innings of one-run baseball, striking out six and letting up just three base hits and zero walks. It was Orndorff’s fourth start and fifth appearance overall. As you might have figured out, for a guy with a 5.85 ERA, it was easily his best one as well.
Even with Orndorff’s efforts (and those of relievers Drake Batcho and Nathan Moore), the Bearcats still could have lost this one if not for and RBI double from shortstop Joey Bellini in the third inning and a wild pitch that allowed Eric Santiago to score the winning run in the seventh inning. Second baseman Jace Mercer had two hits in the contest, but the rest of the Bearcats combined to go 5-for-26 with one walk.
Game Two - Miami-Ohio 12 Cincinnati 8
Despite the win over Xavier, the Bearcats were unable to celebrate a win of the Joe Nuxhall Classic as they were defeated in extra innings by the RedHawks in day two of the in-week tournament. It wasn’t from lack of trying, however, the Bearcats trailed 8-4 entering the bottom of the eighth inning but four-straight RBI knocks tied things up and eventually forced some extra baseball. The effort would be for naught as Nick Murray struggled in his third inning of relief work and allowed four runs in the top of the 11th. UC was unable to spark any magic in the bottom of the frame and that was that.
The loss wasted a stunning offensive rally from the Bearcats, who actually trailed by as many as six runs but got a 4-for-5 effort from shortstop Joey Bellini and three-hit games from left fielder Joey Wiemer, third baseman Eric Santiago and right-fielder A.J. Bumpass, who also drove in three runs on his own.
The pitching was a less successful area, with starter Clayton Colvin striking out five in 3 1⁄3 innings but failing to make it past there after allowing three runs (two earned). Each of the relievers behind him allowed at least two earned runs, except for Brennan Dolwick who faced two batters and got the final out in the bottom of the 11th.
Game Three - UCF 15 Cincinnati 0
We’ll get through this one quickly since this game was stopped before the full nine innings were played anyway. A.J. Kullman started the game on the mound and did make it through five innings, but his control was off with four walks and two wild pitches allowed. Still, when he left the game, the deficit was just 4-0. The game really got out of hand in the sixth when Batcho allowed eight runs on six hits and three walks while recording just a single out.
Batcho has been a regular out of the bullpen for the Bearcats, having thrown 25 1⁄3 innings across 11 appearances. Prior to Friday’s game, he had a 4.50 ERA in his last three appearances, but now his full season mark has jumped to the highest among pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (7.46).
It wouldn’t have really mattered if Batcho and the rest of UC’s pitchers were exceptional because the Bearcats managed only two hits on 26 at-bats in the loss, living up to their AAC-worst .237 team batting average which continues to rear its head and weigh down their chances at challenging for the American Athletic Conference crown.
Game Four - Cincinnati 8 UCF 3
For the first couple innings of the second part of this past weekend’s three-game set, the Bearcats again looked like they would struggle to score.
Then the third inning happened.
Bellini started the rally with a RBI single and by the end of the inning, the Bearcats had scored six runs on five hits. Bellini would add another RBI hit in the eighth as he continues to be at the heart of the UC offense. Although the lineup has not been powerful from top to bottom, Bellini has been an incredibly difficult out, especially of late. The junior went 3-for-4 in this game and has lifted his batting average to .367, which is nearly 100 points higher than the next best batter on the team. Since April began, he has six multi-hit games and is batting .513 in 37 at-bats.
On the pitching side, freshman Evan Shawver pitched the best game of his career by a long shot. He set personal-bests in innings pitched (seven) and strikeouts (12) while allowing only two earned runs on three hits and a pair of walks. Shawver has had a rocky introduction, especially as a member of the starting rotation, but the strikeout stuff is undeniable as he has 41 in 35 total innings.
Game Five - Cincinnati 7 UCF 6
In a week that had everything from blowouts to pitching gems, the Bearcats ended this one in style, with Wiemer launching a walkoff two-run home run in the second part of a double-header on Saturday.
Including Wiemer’s game-winning home run, the heart of UC’s order carried the day in this victory, with Bellini, Wyatt Stapp and Wiemer combining to go 6-for-13 with four runs scored and three driven in. The rest of the lineup went 2-for-20.
The bullpen also deserves a great deal of credit for this win. After starter Garrett Schoenle struggled (six runs allowed, six walks), Murray, Chase Stewart and Colvin combined to shut out the Knights for the final 4 1⁄3 innings. Stewart was the standout reliever, letting up just one hit across three frames.
This Week’s MVP - Joey Bellini
Bellini may not have the most power-laden bat in the Bearcats’ lineup but he is currently swinging the hottest and most effective one. We already discussed his incredible month to this point, but that’s without noting his team-best OPS (.865) and on-base percentage (.434). He has skyrocketed up the AAC leaderboard as well and is currently among the top five players in the league in batting average.
The Bearcats, who are 6-3 in April and 16-19 overall, are right in the thick of the AAC standings. They are 7-5 in conference play and tied with UConn for third place. They will face off with a Houston Cougars team sitting just a game back from them this weekend but first they have a chance at redemption against Miami-Ohio this evening.