After a historic victory in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament, the No. 2 seed Cincinnati Bearcats will challenge the No. 3 seed Tulane Green Wave in the second part of Thursday’s winner’s bracket at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.
The Story So Far
David Orndorff allowed a solo home run in the top of the first inning, setting an ominous tone for the Cincinnati Bearcats’ first round matchup with the Memphis Tigers. However, that was more of a small hiccup than an omen in an otherwise impressive win for the second-seed Bearcats. Powered by nine hits from the last four batters in the lineup alone, the Bearcats rolled to an 11-6 victory. This marked the second time in the last three games that the Bearcats have produced a double-digit run total after doing so five times the rest of the year.
Tulane is the class of the AAC when it comes to offense but some incredible work on the mound led them to victory against the UCF Knights on Tuesday. Redshirt senior right-hander Kaleb Roper pitched a complete game and allowed only two runs while striking out nine to help Tulane earn a 5-2 victory.
The Green Wave still had some offensive outbursts as well, with outfielder Hudson Haskin going 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI and shortstop Sal Gozzo going yard as well. It was par for the course for a team that hit more home runs than any team in the AAC (87) this season, outpacing its next closest competitor by 30 dingers. Despite that type of power and the fact that it was the only team in the conference to surpass marks of .300 in batting average, .500 in slugging and .400 in on-base percentage, Tulane finished a half game back of the Bearcats in the conference standings and wound up as the third seed.
Recapping the Season Series
Even though they ended up falling short of the Bearcats in the standings, the Green Wave had the upper hand in the season series, taking two out of three from the Bearcats at Marge Schott Stadium at the end of March. In their two wins, the Green Wave outscored the Bearcats 27-5. UC salvaged a 7-6 win in the series finale and was paced by a 5-for-12 effort from Eric Santiago that included four RBI and two extra-base hits.
Players to Watch
Cincinnati - A.J. Bumpass, RF
Bumpass was already starting to heat up at the plate during the stretch run and that carried into the postseason. On Tuesday, he went 4-for-4 with a triple, two RBI and three runs scored. He is the Bearcats’ leader in OPS this season and although he takes an aggressive approach, with more than twice as many strikeouts (47) as walks (20), when he is able to make contact, it usually does damage.
Tulane - Kody Hoese, 3B
The AAC Player of the Year beat up on the Bearcats earlier this season, going 4-for-14 with four walks, a home run, six RBI and five runs scored out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup. That is what Tulane is used to getting from the junior third baseman, who led the AAC in all three slash line percentages (.392/.487/.792) as well as hits (89), home runs (23), total bases (179) and runs scored (71). Tulane has other great hitters but Hoese is the best of the best. If UC is going to win, it has to keep his bat silent.
During the three-game set they had with Tulane in March, the Bearcats used an average of four pitchers per game. If they are forced to employ such a strategy once more there is good news. With Orndorff and A.J. Kullman pitching the team to victory on Tuesday, head coach Scott Googins will have have a relatively rested bullpen to work with against the Green Wave, which should be an advantage considering how well they hit the ball. That could still end up being for naught, however, because Tulane still dominated the Bearcats when they were using multiple pitchers earlier this season. Tulane 7 Cincinnati 3