The 22-26 Bearcats defeated the Musketeers for the third time this season and the fourth time overall. The all-time series stands at 61-36-1 in favor of UC.
On the season the Bearcats improve to 8-3 overall against teams form the Buckeye state. On the season Cincinnati has three-game season sweeps of the previously mentioned Musketeers and Cleveland State, as well as stealing victories from Toledo and Mount St. Joseph this season. The Bearcats lost their only two meetings against the Miami (OH) RedHawks (including Tuesday's 5-2 defeat) and a loss to Ohio at home on March 30.
Buscemi, who was making just his fifth start of the year (six appearances and 20.0 innings total on the season) was sterling during his five-plus innings of work, scattering just six hits while allowing just one run to the opposition.
"Nick has undoubtedly his best performance of the season tonight," said Bearcat skipper Brian Cleary, who was heckled lovingly from UC fans about his birthday. "He did a great job of throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters."
Buscemi, who improves to 3-2 on the season, faced just four batters more than the minimum (19) during his time on the mound. Despite not overpowering the opposition on the evening (two strikeouts), Buescmi did a great job of keeping the Xavier bats off-balance and let his defense do their job.
Besides Buscemi, the red and black relied heavily on the bats of Jon DeLuca and Erik Eitel. DeLuca, who came into the contest hitting .268 on the season, finished 3-for-4 on the night, including a double, two runs scored and an RBI. The 3-for-4 effort that came off the bat of Eitel (.202 prior to the game) also proved huge for the Bearcats. Eitel's base-clearing triple in the bottom-half of the eighth proved to be the hit that killed any chance of a Musketeer comeback.
The big night by both DeLuca and Eitel helped fill the void left when Brian Szarmach went down with a season-ending injury.
No question the void of Brian's bat in the lineup will hurt us, but I am confident in the guys we will run out there," said Cleary. "I expect whoever we run out there to perform and so do they."
The absence of 10 homeruns hit by the sophomore has been further emphasized by the fact that UC leadoff man LaFringe Hayes has struggled mightily during his recent slump. Hayes, who was hitting over .400 just a few brief weeks ago, has seen his average plummet south of .340.
"Yeah, I am in a slump right now," said Hayes with a smirk and a faint laugh. "All I can do out there is a be a leader and play hard in the field and keep swinging hard. It is just one of those points in the season; eventually I'll work out of it."
One person who showed no signs of slumping was Xavier's Jay Johnson, who single-handedly did his part to keep the Musketeers in the contest. Hitting .343 coming into his final UC/XU showdown, Johnson went 4-for-4 on the game (two singles, a double and a homerun). The do-it-all leadoff man played a role in both Muskie scores, scoring after a double in the sixth and hitting a homerun during the eighth.
The Musketeers also turned the rare 1-6-3 triple play. A botched bunt by Jim Olds (who was playing right field instead of his usual catcher position) led to a diving snare by Xavier hurler Brett Smith. Smith then threw to third to a covering shortstop who proceeded to throw to first to catch the second of the pair of UC runners.
With their major non-conference games behind them, the Bearcats will now put all efforts towards winning-out for the remained of their conference schedule. With six games remaining in C-USA play, UC will need major help from their opponents if they hope to have a chance at postseason play. Currently sitting a half-game behind Charlotte for ninth place, the Bearcats will presumably have to sweep Memphis in the three-game home series this weekend in order to have a shot to earn one of the top-eight spots necessary in order to advance to the conference tournament in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (May 25-29).