The penultimate week of the regular season was an important one for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Following a sweep at the hands of the East Carolina Pirates, they needed to recover, particularly in league play, and they did just that, taking two of three on the road against the Memphis Tigers. An extra-inning loss to the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks kept them to a .500 week but at 24-27 overall and 13-11 against the American Athletic Conference, the Bearcats are in a decent spot entering the last few games before the postseason. Let’s look at how they got there before we look ahead.
Game One - Miami (Ohio) 7 Cincinnati 6
Walkoffs are fun except when you are on the losing side of one. That’s what happened to the Bearcats, who extended their losing streak to four games when Miami designated hitter Cole Andrews hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to break a tie and win the game for the RedHawks. The Bearcats had trouble with Andrews all game, as he went 3-for-5 and drove in six of Miami’s runs. Griffin Merritt (2-for-5) was the only Bearcat with a multi-hit game while A.J. Bumpass and Jace Mercer hit two-run singles in the first inning.
On the pitching side, the Bearcats took an all hands on deck approach, using five pitchers. Nick Murray allowed three runs in the first two innings and then Garrett Schoenle gave up another three in the following 2 1/3. Andrew Noelker and Nathan Moore combined for four scoreless innings before Korren Thompson came in and got the final two outs of the ninth. The Bearcasts had a chance to take a lead in the 10th when Joey Wiemer doubled to lead off the inning, but he was left stranded and Andrews went yard off of Thompson to start the bottom of the frame.
Game Two - Cincinnati 7 Memphis 4
The Bearcats started quickly again, scoring six runs in the first two innings to effectively put Friday’s series opener out of reach. Memphis didn’t score their first run until the seventh and by then it was too late. Joey Bellini led the offensive charge, going 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBI while David Orndorff maintained his ace status with 6 1⁄3 solid innings in which he allowed only two runs on five hits. It was a return to form for Orndorff, who allowed six runs in as many innings during his previous start. It was also a bounce back effort for Bellini, who had not had a multi-hit game since April 20. Thompson got some redemption of his own, earning his eighth save by getting the final five outs of the game without allowing a hit.
Game Three - Memphis 11 Cincinnati 4
Evan Shawver, who at one time appeared ready to ascend to ace status, struggled to start this game and it ultimately led to a UC loss. The left-handed freshman allowed six runs across 3 1⁄3 innings before being take out. His erratic offerings were to blame, as he only allowed two hits but walked seven batters, giving the Tigers ample opportunity to score. Shawver has had electric stuff at times, with 59 strikeouts across 49 innings, but that electricity has gone hand-in-hand with some erratic offerings, as he has walked roughly 0.8 batters per inning, including a total of 16 in the last three games.
UC’s offense couldn’t keep up with Memphis despite a home run from Merritt, a two-hit game from Wyatt Stapp and doubles from Eric Santiago and Wiemer.
Game Four - Cincinnati 4 Memphis 2
Clayton Colvin picked a great time for his best outing of the season, as he kept Memphis’ bats quiet for the most part, allowing only two runs on four hits across six innings of work, although he did hit four batters. He added seven strikeouts and got an assist from the bullpen with A.J. Kullman and Thompson combining for three shutout innings.
The Bearcats scored three of their four runs in the first four innings, with the biggest hit coming on a two-run single from Santiago in the fourth. Wiemer added an insurance RBI in the seventh. Santiago finished with an 2-for-4 afternoon and Mercer added two hits of his own, but the Bearcats struck out 11 times and left eight runners on base. Luckily, what they were able to accomplish on offense was enough.
This Week’s MVP - Korren Thompson
Despite allowing the winning run against Miami, Thompson had a strong week out of the bullpen. He got the final two outs of the ninth inning to force extra innings against Miami, doing so with a runner on second base no less. He then earned saves in UC’s two wins against Memphis, tallying 2 2⁄3 innings, three strikeouts and not a single run allowed. Thompson has allowed only two runs in his last 10 appearances and driven his ERA to a season-low mark of 4.56.
The Bearcats will stay local for the final week of the regular season. They will host Northern Kentucky on Tuesday and then play a three-game series against Xavier this weekend, with games to be played at Marge Schott Stadium, Prasco Park in Mason and the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark.