The regular season has come to a close for the Cincinnati Bearcats, who played four games during the past week and split those decisions, finishing at 26-29 overall. For a team that completed its conference schedule last weekend, the Bearcats were in the unfortunate position of having no way to influence their seeding in the American Athletic Conference Tournament during these last few days. That doesn’t mean these games didn’t mean anything, especially since three of them came against cross-town rival Xavier. Unfortunately, they did not finish the campaign on the strongest of notes and will have to erase that from their memory as the postseason begins. Before it does, here is a look at the last week.
Game One - Cincinnati 6 Northern Kentucky 5
Call it the John Brannen Series as the Bearcats faced the Norse for the first time since the new UC men’s basketball coach was hired. The Bearcats faced the Norse earlier this season and captured a 14-6 win on March 27 at Marge Schott Stadium. The second meeting this past Tuesday was at the same location and featured a similar result, at least in terms of wins and losses.
During a back-and-forth game, the Bearcats were able to win despite recording just a single RBI as a team and that came on a bases loaded walk. The rest of the runs scored on two balks, two wild pitches and a throwing error when Jace Mercer stole third base and then advanced home in the sixth inning. The Bearcats recorded 10 walks as a team, including three alone from leadoff hitter Eric Santiago. However, they left 13 runners on base by going 6-for-29 as a team.
Garrett Schoenle started for UC and despite allowing four earned runs, was fairly effective for five innings. The sophomore left-hander limited his walk total to two after recording at least three in his last seven starts. He also struck out nine batters, giving him 59 across 52 innings overall this season. The bullpen lifted Schoenle to the win as well, with Andrew Noelker allowing one run in three innings and Korren Thompson picking up his 10th save with a scoreless ninth.
Game Two - Xavier 11 Cincinnati 2
This game was over quite quickly, with the Musketeers taking an 8-0 lead after two innings and never looking back. UC starter Drake Batcho was responsible for those first eight runs and didn’t make it past the second frame. He allowed seven hits, two walks, a hit batter and also threw two wild pitches without recording a strikeout. Even a strong relief showing from Nick Murray after that (four innings, five strikeouts, one earned run) couldn’t save the Bearcats.
When they were batting, the Bearcats had more hits than the Northern Kentucky game, but they still left 10 runners on base despite multi-hit games from A.J. Bumpass (2-for-4), Wyatt Stapp (2-for-3) and Joey Bellini (2-for-4), who had the only extra-base hit of the game for UC.
Game Three - Cincinnati 10 Xavier 4
After losing in their final home game of the season, the Bearcats switched venues on Friday and that yielded a better result. Things started poorly at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio, however, with starter Evan Shawver allowing three runs in the first two innings. However, he settled down and threw two more scoreless innings before the bullpen took over. That gave the offense enough time to get going and get going it did. Led by a catcher Mitch Holding, who went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI, the Bearcats went 11-for-37 as a team and scored 10 runs for the first time since they swept Wichita State at the end of April. Mercer (2-for-5), Bumpass (2-for-4) and Cole Murphy (2-for-4) all collected more than one hit as well.
Game Four - Xavier 10 Cincinnati 2
Considering the Bearcats didn’t score until the sixth inning when the Musketeers already had a 5-0 lead, this game was a tough one to watch, even if it was played at the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark. Chase Stewart and Noelker combined to allow eight runs across 4 1⁄3 innings, with Stewart taking the loss.
UC didn’t leave many runners on base but that was because they didn’t get many on base to begin with. They had six hits as a team and just a single walk, although Murphy launched his second home run of the season,
This Week’s MVP - The catchers
Holding and Mason DeAnna have not been pillars of the offense this season but they were the most successful hitters during UC’s two wins this week. Deanna went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI against Northern Kentucky and Holding recorded four of his 13 RBI this season on Friday against the Musketeers. Holding is still batting below .200 this season, but he does have a good eye, with 30 walks compared to 35 strikeouts and a .415 on-base percentage. DeAnna has collected hits at a better rate (.218 batting average), but with a .520 OPS and only two extra-base hits all season, his work this week really stood out.
UC’s 26-29 overall record is pretty irrelevant now. What matters the most is their 13-11 mark in AAC play, which earned them the No. 2 seed in the league tournament. For their troubles, they will get a first round matchup with the No. 7 seed Memphis Tigers on Tuesday in Clearwater, Florida. The Bearcats took two out of three from the Tigers earlier this month so they should have the advantage.