Bearcats Drop Two In A Row

Wednesday's home game against Toledo had a promising start for UC with back-to-back home runs, but a disastrous fifth inning changed all that as the Rockets evened their record at 6 and 6 while the Bearcats dropped to 11 and 9.

The Bearcats baseball team will head to Pittsburgh Thursday morning to open Big East play this weekend with no momentum after dropping back-to-back games against Xavier and Toledo this week.  Bearcat Insider was on hand for the Toledo game with some observations and some comments from Coach Cleary.


-It turned out to be a nice homecoming for Jake Oester, the Toledo Rocket shortstop and son of ex-Red Ron Oester.  The McNick grad played a solid game in the field and was on base all four times with a single, a double and two walks.


-Bearcat coach Brian Cleary made some changes in his starting line-up.  Josh Harrison moved from second base to third base.  Jamel Scott came off the bench to play second, and Michael Earley became the Bearcats' designated hitter.   The trio got four of the Bearcats six hits on the evening.  Coach Cleary said there were several reasons for the moves.  "We're trying to create some offense, and I really thought yesterday we hit some balls at people but just couldn't push any runs across.  I thought today we were on the verge of a breakout, but there's just not enough offense at the bottom of the order.  Defensively, we're better with the line-up that was out there today.  Jamel Scott has a chance to be a pretty good player for us as he's starting to get more comfortable.  He just needs more at bats, and this was also a chance to improve ourselves defensively too.  Harrison feels a little more comfortable at third, but Earley's bat obviously needs to be in our line-up."


-Michael Earley and Neall French started the scoring for the Bearcats with back-to-back two out home runs in the 1st inning after Toledo had taken the lead with a triple coupled with a Bearcat throwing error that scored the Rocket run in the top of the inning.  Neall French was the Bearcat hitting star going 3 for 3, but French was shaky at first base despite having no errors.  The Bearcats might be better served if French and Earley switched roles with Micheal playing first base and Neall becoming the DH.  French dropped a ball at first base but picked it up in time to get the out and had a hard shot go through him that a slick fielding infielder may have had.


-The Bearcats continue to get marginal play from behind the plate with Ryan Baker.  The juco transfer is hitting a paltry .173 in twenty games.  Coach Cleary commented on the catching position.  "That and shortstop are really defense first positions so we've got to have defense there.  Far and away, he's our best defender.  I think it's going to be difficult to replace him, but the offense has been a problem.  We anticipated more offense out of that spot.  If you have to live with a little bit of offense, that's where you do it.  (Nick) Maragas not being with us is really hurting us right now."


-Speed played a major role in two of the Bearcats' five runs.  In the 5th inning, Josh Harrison had an infield hit, stole second base, advanced to third on a fly ball and was driven in by a clutch two out hit by Neall French.  In the 7th inning, Tony Campana legged out an infield hit, went to second on a botched pickoff attempt, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly to left field.


-The Cincinnati "Defensive Play of the Game" came in the top of the 8th inning.  With the Bearcats trailing by two runs, Bearcat centerfielder Tony Campana gunned down a Toledo insurance run at the plate to end the inning.  Josh Harrison also had a fine play at third base on a line drive to his left that took him to the ground before Josh got up to throw the runner out.


-There was a somewhat controversial move for the Bearcats in the 8th inning.  The Bearcats trailed by two runs.  With two outs and Neall French on second, Coach Cleary decided to pinch hit Dustin Alvey (.083) for Adam Yeager (.224).  The lefthanded hitting Alvey grounded out to first base on the first pitch.  Coach Cleary explained his reasoning for the move.  "Yeager has struggled lately and with the ball jumping out to right field like it was with a runner on base, Yeager's not likely to put a ball in the gap.  Alvey's got power, and I just felt we gave ourselves a chance to get ourselves in the game with one swing of the bat.  Obviously it didn't work out that way."


-The difference in the game was Toledo's six run fifth inning.  Nick Buscemi had given up only one hit up to that point.  Coach Cleary didn't feel that Nick tired.  "The way he pitches, I think they started to adjust, and we couldn't get him out of there quick enough.  I thought he pitched as well as he has for those four innings.  He's not a high velocity guy or a great stuff guy.  He's got to pitch, and he missed a few spots and fell behind on a couple hitters.  It turned into a big inning pretty quickly."


-The Bearcats travel to Pittsburgh (6-11) this weekend to start Big East play.  Coach Cleary addressed the challenge of playing the Panthers.  "If you look at the entire league, you have some teams with some not-so-good records, but I don't know if you get a good read on a northern team early in the year.  We did not play Pitt last year so we're not as familiar with them as we are with some other teams.  In looking over the reports, I think they're going to be a pretty good team.  We'll have our hands full."


-Spring signing day is only three weeks away.  Coach Cleary was asked about recruiting.  "I don't think we'll sign very many even beyond the spring date because of our roster and who we have returning.  We do have some visits coming up.  In our sport in this part of the country, the signing day doesn't take on the same significance as it does in the fall.  There's just so much evaluation still going on because the high schools are just staring their seasons, and it's often difficult getting those guys on campus because of our schedule and their schedules.  I'm hopeful that we will sign a player, but we'll likely sign only two or three more guys.  We've got some junior college players scheduled to visit and some high school players we need to evaluate.  If you look what our obvious needs are, it's a middle of the line-up hitter.  That's #1 on the list right now.  A couple of hitters and a pitcher would fit the bill, and depending on Maragas' situation, we may need to get a catcher, but we'll know more about that later."     

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