After starting the season 1-9, the Cincinnati Bearcats did not look like a team that was prepared to climb out of such a disastrous start, but that’s just what they have done. On Sunday, after finishing off a sweep of the Wichita State Shockers, the Bearcats brought their record to 22-22, reaching .500 for the first time this season. Let’s take a look at the week that was and how the Bearcats navigated their way to this milestone.
Louisville 12 Cincinnati 0
It may not mean much of anything but this was the second loss this month where the Bearcats failed to score while allowing the other team to put more than 10 runs on the board. It was a slow but gradual blowout, with the two teams stuck in a scoreless tie until the fourth inning when the Cardinals scored three runs on back-to-back doubles. They would score at least one run in the next four innings as well, while the Bearcats managed only five hits and five walks all game. UC pitchers countered by allowing nine hits and as many walks. Freshman Andrew Noelker was handed the loss after starting strong and then allowing two runs in the fourth before being taken out of the game.
Cincinnati 5 Eastern Kentucky 2
UC’s scoreless streak stretched through the fourth inning in their next game, but a five-run fifth frame broke things open and ultimately led to a victory. The rally began with consecutive home runs from catcher Mitch Holding and center fielder Jeremy Johnson, who were batting in the eighth and ninth spots in the order, respectively. The heart of the order got involved as well, with third baseman Eric Santiago (2-for-5), designated hitter Wyatt Stapp (2-for-4) and left fielder Joey Wiemer (2-for-3) all producing multi-hit games, although Wiemer did not score or drive in any runs. What he did do, however, was steal four bases, further proving that the Bearcats lack fear in that area.
The pitching effort was a combined one, with four players teaming up to hold the Colonels to two earned runs and only five hits. Drake Batcho got the start but due to some wild offerings (six walks), his pitch count got too high and he was taken out before the end of the third inning. Chase Stewart entered from there and pitched three innings while allowing one run to pick up his third win of the campaign. After Nick Murray pitched a scoreless 2 1⁄3 frames from there, Korren Thompson struck out three batters in the ninth to take home his sixth save.
Cincinnati 5 Wichita State 1
There is no denying it anymore. David Orndorff has officially reached ace status for the Bearcats, who might have more than one. The redshirt senior right-hander allowed just one run on five hits and a single walk across seven innings, effectively silencing the bats of Wichita State. Orndorff has allowed three runs in his last three starts combined and driven his ERA down from a mark of 10.31 as recently as March 27 to a more respectable 3.86.
The Bearcats supported Orndorff with a home run from Stapp (2-for-4) and RBIs from Holding (2-for-4), Johnson (2-for-4), first baseman Griffin Merritt (1-for-3) and Santiago, who went hitless but brought in a run on a fielder’s choice in the fourth inning.
Cincinnati 11 Wichita State 9
You had to arrive early to see the fireworks in this game, as the Bearcats went down 1-0 in top of the first inning and then scored four in response, only to let up six in the top of the second before dropping five on the Shockers in the bottom of the frame. Right-fielder A.J. Bumpass played a big role in that four-run first, hitting a three-run home run as part of a 2-for-4 afternoon. Batting one spot ahead of Bumpass in the cleanup role, Wiemer went 3-for-5 with two RBI, while Santiago went 3-for-5 in the leadoff spot and shortstop Joey Bellini scored three runs while batting second.
The tough early going for UC’s pitchers was felt most by Evan Shawver, who experienced a reality check of sorts. After striking out 20 batters in his previous 14 innings pitched, the freshman had trouble finding the plate, walking five and allowing six runs (four earned) without making it past the second inning. Clayton Colvin may have gotten the win as the next reliever up, but A.J. Kullman (three shutout innings) and Thompson, who earned his seventh save with a scoreless ninth, really shut the door.
Cincinnati 10 Wichita State 4
This was a another game that started off in a back-and-forth manner. The Shockers scored a run in each of the first three innings, while the Bearcats countered with two of their own in the second and a third in the fourth. UC then broke things open with a six-run fifth inning, sparked by RBI singles from Bellini and Bumpass and a two-run double from second baseman Jace Mercer (2-for-3), who drove in a total of four runs in the game. Mercer also had one of three stolen bases for the Bearcats and joined Bumpass (2-for-3) as one of two Bearcats with multi-hit games.
The Bearcats didn’t need great pitching thanks to the 10 runs the offense scored, but that didn’t stop Murray from throwing six fantastic relief innings, allowing just one run on three hits to improve to 3-1 on the campaign.
This Week’s MVP - A.J. Bumpass
The senior outfielder didn’t do much against Louisville and Eastern Kentucky, but was a driving force in an important sweep of the Shockers. In that series, he went 5-for-11 with a home run, five RBI and four runs scored. He also added two stolen bases for the entire week and currently leads the team in RBI (30), doubles (12), total bases (73) and OPS (.801).
Now 11-7 in American Athletic Conference play and with only two league series left to go, the Bearcats will be off during the week before hosting a three-game set against the first place East Carolina Pirates next weekend.