Villanova Wins Critical Series

With the Bearcat baseball team facing challenging road trips to Big East top teams like Rutgers and St. Johns before returning home for another tough series with Louisville, this weekend's games with Villanova took on added importance. After an opening game win, the Bearcats dropped the next two contests to the Wildcats including Sunday's deciding game.

-The Bearcats played in front of their biggest home crowd of the season as 714 fans came to Marge Schott Stadium on Sunday afternoon.  It was Norwood Little League Day at UC, and the mayor of Norwood showed a good sense of humor as he threw out the first pitch.  Ryan Baker made the "Defensive Play of the Game" by catching that errant first pitch from Norwood's mayor.  The mayor than pulled a paper bag out of his pocket and put it over his head as he walked off the diamond.  But there was very little else amusing on the day if you were a Bearcat baseball fan.

 

-With about a dozen major league scouts watching, John Baird put the Bearcats in a 5-0 hole in the 1st inning.  Baird hit the first three Wildcats loading the bases and eventually walked in a run before giving up a bases clearing hit later in the inning.  Of the Wildcats' seven runs off Baird, I believe six of those runners reached base by way of a hit batsman or walk.

 

-One of the silver linings on the day was a Bearcat bullpen that had been struggling.  Freshman Kevin Johnson, who came into the contest with a 10.80 ERA and having thrown only five innings, threw 3.1 innings of hitless, shutout baseball. 

 

-The other bright spot was Adam Yeager's offense.  The "Adam Yeager Fan Club" had about 30 members, and they were treated to one of Adam's best games.  Yeager went 2 for 2 driving in both of UC's runs with a home run, his first of the year, and a sacrifice fly.  Yeager also reached base with a walk.

 

-The Bearcats had runners in scoring position in several innings but never were able to get the big hit and extend their rally.

 

-Baird was so wild today, he even struggled throwing the ball to first base.  On one play, Neall French had to dive to catch a throw from Baird on a come-backer to the mound, and later John did throw away a ball to first on what should have been an easy out.

 

-To add to the frustrating afternoon for the Bearcats, even Tony Campana got caught stealing.  For the weekend, Tony was a below average 2 for 4 in steal attempts.

 

-The Bearcats slip to 8-9 in Big East play and are tied for 6th place with Notre Dame.  Villanova holds 8th place, a game and a half behind the Irish and Bearcats.

 

After the game, Bearcat Insider spoke with Coach Cleary and asked about Kevin Johnson's relief performance.  "He was very good as he was earlier in the week.  This could be the time of year when those freshmen start to get comfortable and feel like they know what they're doing and feel like they belong out there."

 

In the 1st inning, I was surprised Coach Cleary didn't visit the mound after John Baird hit the first three Villanova batters although he did go to the mound after Baird struck out the fourth batter of the inning for the first out.  Coach Cleary explained himself.  "I felt like he got tentative with his delivery.  I don't know the last time I saw someone start a game with three hit batsmen.  We had a stands full of scouts, and I know he was nervous.  After he got the strike out, I felt he had some room to breathe.  I just told him to be aggressive, cut it loose and let his stuff work."

 

With three series remaining against the top three teams in the Big East, what is a realistic goal for the Bearcats?  "If we play well, we're capable of beating anybody.  I haven't spent a lot of time worrying about this stretch of the schedule.  If we could go 4-5 or 5-4, I'd feel good about it, but we could also go 6-3 or 3-6.  I think it's just a matter of showing up and playing.  I feel like we're playing as well as we've played all year except for a meltdown here or there for an inning."

 

Coach Cleary explained why Michael Earley has left the team.  "He expressed some dissatisfaction about where he was playing and wanted some assurances he was going to play third base in the future.  I told him it was a possibility, but I couldn't guarantee that.  I thought he needed to become proficient at a position, and he said he was unwilling to play anywhere but third base.  I told him we've never guaranteed anybody a spot or playing time.  He wanted to go somewhere that would assure him he'd play third, and I thought it was important that he leave us immediately.  I didn't want to invest playing time with someone that wasn't going to be here.  I told him he should stay here and was making a mistake, but once he decided he was going to leave, I felt he shouldn't be around here any longer."

 

Coach Cleary also talked about the difficulties of scheduling.  "In the middle of the week, you're limited geographically.  You play whoever you can get here.  We've tried to play everyone we can from the area.  The notable exception is Ohio State, and I've been willing to play them, but at some point they need to agree to come here.  I've offered to go there two times, three times, but I'm not going to go there without assurances that they'll play here.  They haven't been willing to do that."

 

"Other than them, we've played Kentucky, Indiana, Purdue, Tennessee.  We've played everyone we can in regard to midweek.  On weekends, I'd love to run Texas in here or an SEC or ACC team, but they're not coming.  They're not going to Ohio State or Indiana either.  They're not coming to this part of the country.  I've looked at trying to get them here, but we've not been able to entice them to come, neither has anybody else in this part of the country.  We're limited with those early weekends because our conference schedule takes over later."

 

"If you look at our early season schedule this year, we had Florida Atlantic and were going to go to Duke, but they cancelled on us at the last minute.  We had to play Austin Peay and North Carolina A & T to get some games in.  I'd love to play as competitive a schedule as we can."

 

Lastly, Coach Cleary was asked about his feeling on the RPI.  "I think there are two ways to look at that.  For us to get any at-large consideration, you have to have a certain RPI, but if you look at schools in our league, that's been difficult.  We're not going to be left out of the tournament this year because of our RPI, and we're not going to get into it because of our RPI.  There are some years when you don't know how good people are going to be.  Florida Atlantic has traditionally been a top 30 RPI team, but they're not this year.  Duke has always helped our RPI, but they're off our schedule.  There aren't a lot of schools with a high RPI in this part of the country so it's tough to get them on our schedule.  The Big East has an RPI problem.  A few years ago, we played a murderous schedule, but we didn't win enough so there's a balance needed there."

 

The Bearcats next host Morehead State for a double header on Wednesday beginning at 3 o'clock.  For more Bearcat baseball information, visit gobearcats.com

 


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