The Cincinnati Bearcats knew they were going to face a major challenge against the East Carolina Pirates and they certainly got what they expected. The Pirates, who were ranked fifth in the country according to RPI entering the weekend, won three-straight against the Bearcats, sending them back below .500 and to an 11-10 mark in American Athletic Conference play. That is still good enough for third place in the conference and with only one more league series left, the Bearcats can still put themselves in a favorable position for the postseason tournament. However, this was still a disappointing week for the cause.
Game One - East Carolina 9 Cincinnati 4
The first part of Friday’s double-header was over pretty early on. The Pirates put four runs on the board in the first inning and led 7-0 after three frames. Freshman Evan Shawver was on the wrong end of that scoring output, as UC’s starter allowed all seven runs and didn’t make it out of the third inning. He struggled with location, walking four batters and throwing a wild pitch as well.
Jake Agnos countered with a brilliant start of six innings, eight strikeouts and zero runs allowed. Although the Bearcats would score four runs off of ECU reliever Zach Barnes, it was far from enough. They left 11 runners on base and only Cole Murphy had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-2 with a double.
Game Two - East Carolina 6 Cincinnati 3
Once again, the Pirates started out faster than the Bearcats, with a three-run double from left fielder Bryant Packard powering a 4-0 lead through the first three innings. UC countered with a two-run double from Jace Mercer and a sacrifice fly from Mason DeAnna in the fourth but they could never take a lead of their own. Once again, the Bearcats left too many runners on base (10) while Joey Wiemer (2-for-5) was the only player to record more than one hit. However, Joey Bellini and Griffin Merritt each worked two walks apiece.
While the offense had its problems, the real disappointment of this game was the start of David Orndorff. After the redshirt senior posted a 1.29 ERA in his previous three outings, he surrendered six runs in as many innings against the Pirates. Some erratic offerings were to blame, as he matched or exceeded his season-highs by walking two batters and hitting two more. On the bright side, he did have his highest strikeout total of the season (seven).
Game Three - East Carolina 6 Cincinnati 2
After an off day on Saturday, the Bearcats finished their three-game series with the Pirates on Sunday but not with a positive result. After taking a 2-0 lead through four innings, the Bearcats’ pitching fell apart in the fifth inning when starter Clayton Colvin and reliever A.J. Kullman combined to allowed six earned runs. Colvin had put together a strong first four innings, but was unable to get out of the fifth, ultimately allowing four runs on six hits and two walks. Kullman gave up the next two runs, but did settle down and throw two more innings before Nathan Moore finished things.
UC scored its two runs on an RBI single from Murphy in the second inning and an RBI double from Wyatt Stapp in the third. However, the bats went silent from there and the Bearcats only had seven hits and a single walk compared to 12 strikeouts.
This Week’s MVP - Cole Murphy
Murphy was used as a pinch hitter in the first two games of the ECU series but went 2-for-3 in those situations. Then he went 1-for-3 with an RBI on Sunday as the starting designated hitter. He finished the weekend with a two runs driven in for a UC team that struggled to score. Although he is only slashing .214/.288/.268 this season, the senior found some success this past weekend.
The Bearcats have four road games ahead of them this week, starting with a matchup against Miami-Ohio on Tuesday and ending with a three-game set against Memphis next weekend.