BEARCATS TOP X IN DIAMOND SHOOTOUT

In front of surprisingly modest crowd at Hayden Field on the campus of Xavier University, the Cincinnati Bearcats baseball team continued their annual renewal of their version of the Crosstown Shootout with a dominant 10-5 performance on Wednesday afternoon against their local rival.

Though it took the Bearcats four pitchers and 124 pitches to do so, the mighty bats of UC ultimately proved too much for the Muskies to overcome.

Cincinnati skipper Brian Cleary noted the importance of beating a local rival like Xavier.

"It's a win, and every win is important," said Cleary. "But I think this one will have a special significance with our fans since Cincinnati is a great baseball town."

Paced by the combined 6-for-9 day at the plate that saw Brian Szarmach and Mark Muscenti (4-for-4) combine for five RBIs and three runs scored, UC took full-advantage of their 12 hits, six walks and three Musketeer errors.

The second of three regular season meetings between the local rivals, the Bearcats will hope the success from their only trip across town this season will carryover to future games on the UC schedule. The Bearcats improve to 10-8 in non-conference action and 13-16 overall on the season. The Bearcats crosstown beat down today most be utilized in conference outings, where UC has seen little success thus far this season going 3-8 against conference foes.

The victory also snaps Xavier's meager two-game winning streak and drops the Xavier record to 13-21 on the season.

Cincinnati defeated the Musketeers 6-0 in the series opener at Cincinnati and will look to duplicate their early success over XU into a season sweep when the two meet Bearcats will again on May 11 at UC Stadium.

The contest was set up to pair two of the top centerfielders in region against one another, as UC's speedy defensive-dynamo LaFringe Hayes battled Xavier's do-it-all leadoff man Jay Johnson. Though having limited team success, Johnson managed to find personal success in the left-center field gap. Johnson jacked a fifth inning homerun over the left-center field fence and came through with a double to the same spot on the field in the bottom-half of the seventh. Johnson was also hit by a pitch in the eighth inning.

Hayes, though not accumulating quite the same individual success over the course of the game that Johnson, managed to reach base safely twice in the contest, did achieve the ultimate team success by helping to earn the victory with his impeccable defense.

After a two-run seventh inning got the Musketeers back into the game, a tremendous running catch by Hayes saved two potential Xavier runs from scoring.

Calling him a "game changer," coach Cleary notes the impact the fleet-footed Hayes can have on the game.

"His catch in the eighth inning saved two runs. Who knows, the game could still be going if not for that catch." "His speed and ability to change games with how he covers ground is something we really missed last season," said Clearly about his speedy 5-8 transfer from Oklahoma.

While Hayes catch was big, the four-run eighth inning posted by UC, powered by Brian Szarmach's team leading 7th home run, turned out to be the final nail in the Musketeer's coffin.

Cincinnati seemed to take full-advantage of every offensive and defensive opportunity that was presented to them - the exact opposite of what Xavier had happen.

Neal French, the Bearcats light-hitting backstop, sent a ball ricocheting off Xavier's O'Conner Sports Center to give UC a commanding three-run lead early on. A dribbler to the second baseman brought home the first Cincinnati run of their three-run second after a one out double to left-center field by Mark Muscenti setup the Bearcats for their first scoring chance of the day.

The Bearcats managed to get into the Xavier bullpen early, knocking out starting hurler Steve Sakosits after just two innings of work. Despite sitting down two-straight UC bats, freshman reliever David Hartman saw two runs cross home plate after originally allowing the first three batters he faced reach base.

Xavier had opportunities to get into the action with back-to-back two-out scoring opportunities in the first two innings of the contest, but in both instances the Musketeers failed to come through in the clutch. With two on and two out, Xavier's Adam Lipski put an end to Xavier's first inning scoring chance by turning a 3-2 pitch into a sinking line drive that was easy work for the Bearcat first baseman. In he second inning, Xavier standout Johnson failed to take advantage of what was once 3-0 count and ended the rally with a can-o-corn flyout to short centerfield.

Possibly overlooked in the action was sterling pitching performance of Bearcat starting pitcher David Theobald, who had struggle mightily this season. Allowing 11 runs (10 earned) in the 8 1/3 innings he had worked in his previous six outings (10.80 ERA), the Redshirt-freshman scattered numerous hits and finding himself in potential run-scoring opportunity for the opposition, managed to pitch to his defense and neutralize Musketeer bats when he needs to. Theobald pitched five-plus strong innings for UC, scattering seven hits and allowing just run.


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