Better Luck Next Time?

Though it took them until Sunday to get the first game of their weekend series underway, the University of Cincinnati baseball team will have to wait yet another day to look for their first win of the season.

Despite a solid individual performance from sophomore ace Steven Blevins, the Bearcats dropped a familiar one-run contest to Austin Peay, 4-3, as they failed muster enough offense to curtail the efforts of the opportunistic Governors.  The win by APSU was both their second of the season and the day, as they took care of business against Central Arkansas just prior to their match-up with the ‘Cats.  Austin Peay was predicted to finish fourth in their conference this season.


The loss drops Cincinnati's record to an un-indicative0-4 start, the team's third-straight season with a winless four-game stretch to start a campaign,  is the team's third one-run loss to begin the young year.  


Despite looking sharp for most of his 6.1 innings he worked, Blevins (0-2) performance was undone by the often-sloppy defense and inconsistent hitting perpetrated by UC.  The four runs, three earned, allowed by Blevins would have been thought to be enough given the overall strong offensive performances of UC in their opening series of the season against Florida Atlantic, a three-game  set that saw them amass 25 total runs.


After a run was surrendered by UC starter Blevins in the bottom-half of the first inning, the Sunday afternoon showdown quickly evolved into a pitching duel.  Matching Blevins, a player who has earned numerous preseason accolades after setting a new freshman mark for win last season (9), and APSU senior Matt Reynolds, the game saw the potent bats of both sides go silent for the afternoon. 


The silence was partially induced by a lack of seemingly appropriate "pinging" sound that develops as the baseball makes contact with the aluminum composite baseball bats.  The Bearcats could tally just six hits on the game while striking out nine times, seven of which were brought on by the arm of Reynolds.  Finishing with more strikeouts then hits is always devastating to a team's cause.  Brian Szarmach, who was solid overall offensively during the team's first season series, struck out another three times to dubiously lead the way for the ‘Cats. 


The other situation that played heavily into UC's collective muteness on offense came as a result of their overall inability to come through in key situations.  The most infamous of the Bearcats regarding this was transfer Tony Campana, who ended key scoring threats late in the game for the Bearcats.  The speedy transfer was induced into grounding out twice with runners on third base with two outs.  


It was this relative ineptitude by the Bearcats and the opportunism of the Governors that was undeniable the underlying story of the game, as their greatly diverging abilities in the clutch were on full display. 


After causing UC batters struggles for much of his stint on the mounds, Reynolds, who allowed just one run in his six-plus innings of work, made way for APSU reliever Ben Wilshire to close the game out for the final three frames of play.   Though his numbers will not necessarily reflect, Wilshire was in trouble on multiple occasions during his late-inning appearance. 


Though having been outgunned for most of the contest, UC was given ample opportunities to make a run at the lead, particularly in the eighth inning. Cincinnati made a final push for the contest after Cameron Satterwhite knocked in his second RBI of the game with a fielder's choice that pushed the tying run to third. Trailing now by only a single run, Wilshire was the one that rallied, getting Bearcat power-hitter Neall French to go down looking, effectively ending ‘Cats hopes for a victory.


With that being said, the Bearcats would not have even been in that situation had they been able to come through in the clutch earlier on in the game. Again, although they faced limited situations, UC had suitable opportunities to salvage a victory.  Cincinnati faced a similar situation the inning prior, as they drew within a run once again after Satterwhite's third double of the early-season plated another ‘Cat run in the seventh. However, with runners in scoring position, Wilshire got Campana to ground out, leaving Bearcat runners on the corners. 


Although it would prove not to be the ultimate backbreaking blow for UC -- that would be self-created -- Austin Peay would respond with a score in the bottom-half of the frame on of several UC miscues, as Ryan Gilboy scored on a wild pitch.


In total, the Bearcats finished with three errors and a wild pitch, all of which played at least a part in their downfall.   In the first inning, Cincinnati fell behind on a pair of fielding blunders, as a  wild throw by Yeager and an errant pick off attempt by Blevins led to APSU's Levi Cheshire moving to second base when he shouldn‘t have reached base at all. Matt Kole then drove a Blevins' offering inside the right field line for an RBI double and a 1-0 Governor lead.


The hosts increased the UC deficit to two runs, going ahead 3-1 in the sixth, thanks to part to savvy base running by the Governors. Josh Meeker was caught in a run down and was almost certainly going to be nabbed for an out. However, the heady second baseman was able to prolong the play, allowing Ryan Mantooth to scatter home.


The Bearcats finally broke through against Reynolds in the fifth as Obyc lined a double to left center that scored Satterwhite. With runners on second and third and two out, Reynolds got Campana to ground out to end the threat.


Satterwhite, who finished with two RBI on the game, led Cincinnati offensively.  Despite fielding woes, Yeager had a strong offensive showing, as did Obyc, who earned the start in right field with Cory Hodskins getting the nod in the lineup over Jamel Scott.  The combo of Yeager and the transfer Obyc combined for four of the six hits by the Bearcats, with the latter tallying his first multiple-hit game of the year and with UC overall.


Sadly, Harrison's career-best 18-game hit streak ended after a 0-for-4 showing.


UC will continue its pursuit for their first victory of the year on Monday in their second and final attempt at knocking off Austin Peay (3:30 p.m). Dan Osterbrock, the Bearcats other sophomore starter, takes the mound for the second time this season in the contest.  Osterbrock will look to cauterize Cincinnati's wound and stop the hemorrhaging with a strong performance personally, which will help make up for an under whelming performance in his first outing of the season. The Governor's will match UC's southpaw with David Vicini.  Look for more information on the two teams on the BCI Baseball Board, where you can find the pre-series notes for both clubs.

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