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Xavier win proves Bearcats gaining smarts in 'stupid game'

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The Bearcats resilient comeback victory against Xavier left coach Brian Cleary as proud as he's been of any win this year as UC showed an ability to find a way to win amid trying circumstances. 

By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com

CINCINNATI -- The first words out of head coach Brian Cleary's mouth after the Bearcats came from behind to beat crosstown rival Xavier 7-6 in the first round of the Joe Nuxhall Classic came out bluntly. 
 
"What a stupid sport this is."
 
Amid the laughs from the surrounding media, he referred, to the idea no one can predict what will happen in the game of baseball. Tuesday night was a perfect example of the craziness that can occur in this sport and why a resilient group which finds a way to win can prove invaluable.
 
Down 5-0 after the top of the first, the Bearcats wouldn't allow another run and clawed their way back, highlighted by three runs in the fifth and three runs in the eighth.
 
With players in the dugout wearing rally caps and the crowd of approximately 2,000 doing the Down the Drive chant, freshman Devin Wenzel lined a double over the head of the right fielder in the eighth to put UC ahead 7-5.
 
"I'd come up with bases loaded quite a few times this year," Wenzel said. "I was just looking for a pitch that I could get the barrel on and see if it could go."
 
Cleary almost seemed surprised his team came back to win on Tuesday. At the same time, he's proud of them for battling through adversity.
 
"I'm most proud of this win maybe of any we've had just because of the way that they hung in there and found a way," he said.
 
He knows what this group of young guys is capable of doing and is optimistic they can put it all together.
 
"This team that we've got, as these guys get more physical, we're going to be really good," he said. "We're going to be more talented than some people."
 
He thinks they're due to erupt offensively soon, which would mean turning the corner for a pitching staff that hasn't given up more than eight runs in any of the last 20 games. 
 
"We just got so many guys that are still trying to figure it out in the batter's box," Cleary said. "I told these guys before the game,  have a feeling that any time now, we're going to start really scoring runs."
 
Scoring seven runs and coming back from a five-run deficit might be a sign of just that.
 
Not only did the win boost the team's confidence, but it also was a win against a rival. Because the Bearcats have a young team, they might not be familiar yet with this rivalry and just how big it is to beat Xavier. Cleary made sure they knew how important it is to everyone in the UC community.
 
"We talked before the game about how important this is to this university and to our players and our former players," Cleary said. "This is a big deal."
 
It's always a big deal to beat Xavier, no matter what sport. And the way they won: well, it's just stupid.

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