The Cincinnati Bearcats looked well on their way to completing their sixth-straight win and putting themselves in excellent position to win the Corvallis Regional before collapsing in a 10-4 loss to the Michigan Wolverines Saturday night.
The two teams were tied at one run apiece after four innings, with UC starter David Orndorff matching Michigan’s Jeff Criswell pitch for pitch. Then, in the fifth inning, Eric Santiago hit a three-run double that put the Bearcats ahead 4-1. Unfortunately, the Wolverines responded in a major way in the top of the sixth, scoring two runs off of Orndorff to chase him out of the game. Nick Murray entered in relief and walked two batters before Nathan Moore was called on to clean things up. The Wolverines would score three more runs, however, and then A.J. Kullman was brought in to get the final out.
With a 6-4 deficit now facing them, the Bearcats still had plenty of opportunities to even things up, but they only had three hits the rest of the way while the Wolverines tacked on four more runs.
Santiago finished at 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI and Jace Mercer went 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored but the rest of the lineup combined to go 3-for-25. The Bearcats will now face potential elimination on Sunday afternoon in a matchup with the Creighton Bluejays. If they should win there, they will have to win back-to-back games against the Wolverines to take the regional and advance to the next round. It’s a tall order, but before they attempt it, here are the most important takeaways from Saturday’s loss.
Nobody could hit besides Jace Mercer and Eric Santiago
As mentioned above, Mercer and Santiago combined to go 5-for-7 with two doubles, two runs scored and three RBI. However, unlike when they marched through the American Athletic Conference Tournament and then stunned Oregon State on Friday, the Bearcats did not have balanced production from the entire lineup. Fresh off a 5-for-5 night against the Beavers, A.J. Bumpass went 0-for-2 with a walk, ending a five-game hitting streak. Joey Bellini watched his batting average drop to its lowest mark since the end of March (.294) with an 0-for-4 evening. A few scattered hits from guys like Jeremy Johnson, Wyatt Stapp and Joey Wiemer couldn’t make up for those hitless outings or the 12 times the Bearcats struck out.
The pitching staff struggled with keeping the ball in the infield
Obviously the Bearcats did not have the best pitching of the season, as evidenced by the 10 runs, 12 hits and seven walks they allowed. However, even when they recorded outs, they had trouble keeping the Michigan batters from putting air under the ball. The Bearcats got 16 outs via fly ball and only three on the ground. If a team is consistently lifting the ball into the air, its only a matter of time before they start scoring runs.
UC was defeated at its own game on the base paths
The Bearcats have found a great deal of success in stealing bases this season, with 87 thefts to this point. Unfortunately, they had no luck in that area on Saturday, with Wiemer — who leads the team in stolen bases — caught during the only attempt of the game by any Bearcat. Michigan countered by stealing two bases, giving the Wolvereines 90 for the season.