This is May and soon to be June! It might not have the ring of March, but the college baseball postseason has arrived and the Cincinnati Bearcats will take part beginning on Tuesday at 4 p.m. when they face the Memphis Tigers in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament.
The Story So Far
Cincinnati took a slight step back in terms of total wins this season, with a 26-29 overall mark compared to last year’s 28-28 finish. However, they found a great deal of success in league play, going 13-11 overall. That was impressive enough for them to elbow past most of the other contenders and earn the No. 2 seed in this tournament behind regular season champion East Carolina.
There is an argument to be made that the Bearcats are playing a bit over their heads. Obviously their overall losing record speaks to that, but so does the fact that they are last in the AAC in all three slash line measures (.246/.342/.346) and runs scored (257) while holding a team ERA of 5.51. However, they are one of the better fielding teams in the league and push the advantage on the base paths to make up for some their lack of hitting success, with the second-most stolen bases in the AAC (86).
As the seventh seed, Memphis clearly didn’t have the season it wanted. They did fight to an above .500 record overall (27-26), but went just 10-13 in conference play due to a faulty pitching staff that posted an ERA of just 5.65. If their pitching had been better, this could have been a team that contended since the Tigers had success on offense, batting .277 as a team and falling among the three teams in the league with at least 100 doubles while ranking third in on-base percentage (.375).
Recapping the Season Series
These teams are pretty familiar with each other because they played a three-game series in Memphis from May 10-12. Despite playing on the road, the Bearcats took two out of three from the Tigers in their final conference series of the season. UC closer Korren Thompson was at the peak of his powers during that weekend, earning a pair of saves across 2 2⁄3 innings of scoreless work.
Players to Watch
Cincinnati - David Orndorff, SP
We don’t have official word on who will start for the Bearcats, but after he did not make an appearance this past weekend against Xavier, the odds are that Orndorff will take the mound on Tuesday. Orndorff went 4-2 with a 4.37 ERA across nine outings (eight starts) this season. In his 47 1⁄3 innings, he struck out 34 batters and only walked eight. He was particularly incredible against the AAC, with a 3.29 ERA in 27 1⁄3 innings, including a 6 1/3-inning effort against Memphis in which he allowed only two runs.
Memphis - Hunter Goodman, OF
The Tigers are so dangerous on offense partially because of Goodman, who won some all-conference hardware this week. He slashed .332/.374/.585 with 30 extra-base hits, including 13 home runs. He is an aggressive swinger, with only nine walks, so the Bearcats needs to try to get him to chase, but that is easier said than done, even if they did limit him to a 1-for-11 combined effort earlier this season.
Despite their regular season victories against the Tigers, this is not going to be an easy No. 2 seed vs. No. 7 seed matchup for the Bearcats. If Orndorff gets the start and is on his game, the Bearcats will be in a good position but they need Thompson and the rest of the bullpen to hold steady and for a Memphis team that just beat East Carolina on Sunday to fall short with their pitching. Cincinnati 5 Memphis 4