Bearcats Win UConn Series

The University of Cincinnati baseball team won a very important series with the University of Connecticut this weekend after dropping the first game of the three game set. Bearcat Insider was at Marge Schott Stadium to see both Saturday's and Sunday's victories.

Taking two of three from UConn this weekend was essential in UC's hopes of making the Big East tournament since the Huskies began the series only a game and a half behind the Bearcats in the league standings.


Cincinnati had good starting pitching to go with some great defense and clutch hitting to beat UConn by a 6-2 score.  Here are some of the highlights and other information from Sunday:


-Three local baseball players made unofficial visits to Marge Schott Stadium on Sunday.  Cory Francis is a catcher from Boone County High School in northern Kentucky while Chuck Ghysels and Cory Hough are pitchers at Springboro High School.


-The Bearcats are in the midst of a busy two week period with ten games in thirteen days.  Getting complete game wins from Dan Osterbrock and John Baird this weekend helps as they head into Tuesday's game with Xavier.


-Clutch hitting was one of the Bearcat strengths on the day.  In the 1st inning, Cameron Satterwhite drove in Michael Earley with two outs to give the Bearcats the early 2-1 lead.  Adam Yeager followed with a two out hit of his own to plate Brian Szarmach with what turned out to be the winning run.  In the 5th inning, Brian Szarmach got a clutch two out hit to drive in Earley with an insurance run.


-The Bearcats were aggressive on the base paths although they did lose a few runners.  Tony Campana got picked off first base while Adam Yeager and Jamel Scott also got caught stealing. 


-Despite getting caught stealing, Jamel Scott's speed was a factor in the game.  Scott collected two infield singles on the day and had a successful stolen base, but his biggest play was on defense.  Late in the game, Scott raced into the hole at second and laid out for a ball ticketed for right field.  After securing the ball, Scott got up to successfully throw the leadoff runner out.


-As fine as Scott's defense was, Tony Campana's was even better.  In the top of the 6th, Campana went deep into the right center field alley to run down a long drive that would surely have gone for an extra base hit if anyone else patrolled center field for the Bearcats.  Then in the 8th inning, Campana charged it to snatch a sinking line drive to get the first out of the inning as the Huskies already had runners on first and second base.  Satterfield ended the bases loaded UConn rally in the 8th when he caught up with a slicing shot down the right field line that would have emptied the bases and tied the game if it had gone for a hit.


-John Baird, who had thrown only 27 innings all season, threw 122 pitches and got the complete game victory.  Baird replaced Michael Hill in the #3 spot, and Coach Cleary said John would stay there after his performance on Sunday.  However, I think there could be a change at the #1 spot in the rotation as Dan Osterbrock may move up from #2  as he continues to pitch extremely well.


After the game, I spoke with Coach Cleary about several topics.


With 10 games in 13 days, Coach Cleary knows his bullpen has to pitch well.  "We need to get a better performance from our bullpen this week.  We were fortunate to get two complete games this weekend, but we have games on Tuesday and Wednesday plus another big weekend series.  We need to get some guys pitching better this week."


The Bearcats have four Big East weekend series remaining.  After hosting Villanova this weekend, the schedule gets extremely tough as UC will play the three clubs leading the league in Rutgers, St. John's and Louisville.  "We need every win we can get.  I think we'd feel good with two out of three (Villanova), but to have a special year, at some point you need to sweep someone.  It's difficult to go on the road, and as you said we play Rutgers and St. John's on the road.  We've got our work cut out for us.  On the years you have the extra road schedule, it really factors in, which is the case with us this year."


The Bearcats are now 7-7 in the league, and 8 of the 12 teams qualify for the tournament.  If UC can do no worse than .500 in the Big East, Coach Cleary feels confident the Bearcats will make the postseason.  "I'd have to do the math, but I think at .500 we'd get in the tournament.  Getting into the tournament is not easy.  There will be a couple good teams left out.  The goal for us is not to make the tournament every year but to win the league championship."


Coach Cleary also talked about the newest Bearcat, Mike Spina from Florida Community College.  "Mike Spina is a junior college player in Florida. Brad (Meador) and I spent our final exam week seeing several junior college players, and we had four or five guys we thought might be a fit for us.  He was the best one and the only one we offered.  We feel like he's a middle of the line-up hitter.  By all accounts talking to people down there and getting to meet him, I think he's a tough kid that will play hard.  We're excited to add him to our team."  Coach Cleary feels Spina can play both 1st base and 3rd base equally well.  He's playing 3rd base this season.


John Baird struggled in the 8th inning and was fortunate to escape without giving up any runs so I was surprised to see Baird head to the mound in the 9th inning.  Coach Cleary was asked about that decision.  "My thought was not to send him back out, but he wanted to, and he looked strong.  I wasn't going to let it go too far.  That's one of those decisions where you can lay awake at night wondering if you made the right decision.  If you win, you did the right thing.  If you don't, you didn't.  I felt he had stuffed them all day, and I didn't want to put any wind in their sails by taking him out of the game."


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