The University of Cincinnati (UC) baseball team split its four-game season-opening series against Georgia State University (GSU), bringing their record to 2-2 on the season. Both the Bearcats and GSU were handed a loss in game three of the series on Feb. 18, when benches from both sides cleared after GSU’s junior infielder Matt Ruiz slid hard into UC’s sophomore infielder Lauden Brooks at second base.
GSU routed the Bearcats 12-2 in the season opener after a late collapse by UC saw the red and black give up 11 runs in the final two innings. Sophomore pitcher Garret Harker allowed just one run through five innings while senior starting pitcher Jackson Murphy took the loss on the mound in relief for Harker. GSU outhit the Bearcats 14-4 with two of UC’s hits coming from junior catcher Alec Jones.
UC bounced back in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, collecting its first win of the season after a 9-4 victory. This time around the Bearcats put together a late rally of their own, scoring eight runs in the sixth inning. Junior first baseman Ryan Nicholson paced the offense going a perfect 3-3 at the plate, including his first homerun of the season in the top of the fourth. Junior pitcher Alex Shea collected the win after striking out four batters in three innings of work.
“[Nicholson] is going to carry the team, but he doesn’t have to,” said UC baseball head coach Scott Googins. “He is going to be a big part of our success this year. It is awesome to see that success he had this first weekend.”
After pending review from the NCAA, both teams were handed a loss after bench-clearing altercation forced the second game of the doubleheader to be called in the bottom of the seventh. UC was trailing 3-2 when the game was suspended.
The NCAA’s rules state that any player who leaves their respective bench will be automatically ejected and will be subjected to suspension. The Bearcats will now have to stagger suspensions over their next five games.
“It was two competitive teams getting after it,” said Googins. “No punches were thrown. It was nothing that we want to see. That is not who we are and not what we want to be at UC.”
In the final game of the series, the Bearcats once again stormed back down two only midway through the game after scoring two runs in the seventh and eighth innings. UC’s junior infielder Kameron Guidry broke the late tie with a two-RBI single to left field in the top of the eighth inning. Freshman pitcher Griffin Hugus, sophomore Sean Springer and Nicholson led the Bearcats with two hits apiece. Murphy collected his first win of the season, striking out three in two innings.
The Bearcats have already made a case for being labeled a late game team. Twelve of the Bearcats 19 runs scored against GSU through the four games came in the sixth inning or later. UC trailed at one point in all four games over the weekend.
UC will travel to Gainesville, Florida, later this week for a three-game series against No. 2 University of Florida Gators in an early road test beginning Friday, Feb. 24. The Bearcats are 0-3 against the Gators, dating back to 2006 when the two teams played a three-game series at Florida.