No better place to start today then with the great work done by Shane Harrison and Tommy G over at the video office. They put together this highlight video of the year in UC athletics. Over the course of a year we forget so many of the great moments that happened as the news cycle spins a thousand miles a minute.
Great to relive a fun year in UC sports.
Let's eat ...
--- Didn't have an opportunity to write about the passing of Charlie Coles yet, so wanted to touch on it here. So saddened to hear the news Friday of one of the great men involved in college athletics to be lost too soon.
Testimonials came out from all over as news spread.
"On behalf of the University of Cincinnati, my staff and family I want to offer condolences to Mrs. Coles and the rest of the family on the passing of my friend Coach Charlie Coles. He was a great coach and an even better person. Coach had the ability to make everyone smile and always wanted to help those around him. I consider myself lucky to have known him and his passing is a tremendous loss for the coaching community."
My favorite Charlie Coles story will always be from the first press conference of his I attended in December of 2009. UC had just beat Miami in Cashmere Wright's first season playing. Cash had one of his first great games and made the difference. In the postgame, Coles took a question about Wright, paused, put his hands on both ends of the podium and said off into the distance, "you just knew he'd be great because he's got such a great name," he said. Coles paused and announced it again for maximum comedic value. "Cashmere."
When asked by AP writer Mark Schmetzer if Coles had his druthers what his name would be could he go back and pick it, he stopped and really thought hard about the question with a serious look on his face. Then spouted out his answer slowly leaving the press room in stitches.
"Rudyard. Othello. Coles."
From that point forward I always tried to bring in one of my interns or take the extra time myself to post the transcript of every Coles presser after games and post it to the blog. It was always worth it. Sad to see him go, there will never be another quite like him.
--- UC announced late Friday their new baseball coach is Ty Neal. He most recently served as the Indiana pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. In case you missed it, Indiana just swept Florida State to advance to the CWS in Omaha. He's widely considered one of the top assistants in the game and should bring an injection of fire and energy to his first college head coaching gig.
Neal's been a pitching guru during his career, mentoring 18 pitchers into being drafted in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft. Somwhere young ace Mitch Pattishall jumps for joy.
Love the idea of hiring a coach in his first head job. There's nothing quite like the pride and energy that come from the first opportunity. And if he develops players and recruits as he had at IU, well, that's an exciting combo.
--- The Bearcats football game at Illinois has been announced as a noon kick in Champaign on ESPN2 or ESPNU. That's great news for any Cincinnati folks looking to make the double-dip trip to see the Bengals play the Bears in the season opener the next day in Chicago. Toss a Lou Malnati's pizza into the middle of that combo and you have an epic weekend.
--- Enjoyed a long conversation the other day with Tommy Tuberville. On top of informing me he estimates he has about 15 pairs of boots he allowed a number of interesting nuggets about this upcoming season and evaluations of the roster. Look for much more on that coming up on the blog soon.
--- Randomness ...
--- The aircraft carriergames look like they are done. Loved the first one between Michigan State and UNC, but that really was more lightning in a bottle. There's just too many variables.
--- Huey Lewis and the News were at Horseshoe Casino last night (no, I will not call their outdoor music venue The Shoe, that name already exists in Cincinnati history). Regardless, you know Power of Love brought the house down.
Talked yesterday about the advantages of the Jimmy V Classic and before that post even began collecting hits, UC added another game with a verbal agreement for a home-and-home with Nebraska, according to The Enquirer. The Cornhuskers finished 15-18 last season and 5-13 in the B1G.
This makes me want to rerack a concept I wrote about a few years back which is discussing what makes a quality basketball schedule. It's particularly relevant as UC figures out how to create a schedule that adds the right number of challenges in a new conference environment.
We have to start with where we ended and look at last year's schedule. The Bearcats finished with the 27th toughest schedule (reluctantly) judging by the RPI. Playing a top 30 schedule should be a goal every year. Elite programs play elite schedules. That will be more challenging without the run of ranked Big East teams this year.
How many formidable games does a team need to make that happen?
I'd categorize formidable games as any game against a major conference squad, including the high end of the A-10. You can't control what teams do that year, but you can control scheduling teams who traditionally fare well.
Here's last year's list of 23.
Games against major opponents (Counting all BE teams) -- 23
Games against previous year at-large tourney teams -- 13
This year's conference slate will have eight conference games against tourney teams (I count UConn, who would have made the tournament) with home-and-home games against Memphis, Temple, UConn and Louisville. With those eight games, that leaves the need for five non-conference games against 2013 Big Dance teams in the non-conference.
Right now you have games against Pittsburgh, NC State and New Mexico. There are more games in the works. For the first time in the Mick Cronin era Xavier isn't coming off a tourney appearance so they are uncharacteristically left off the list. UC has scheduled to host San Diego State, but SDSU has been looking for ways out of that due to other schedule additions.
So, in order to reach last year's tourney number UC would either already have reached it or need two more games to be added against tourney teams depending on if you count X or SDSU.
2013 Bearcats known opponents from last year's NCAA Tournament
San Diego State**
As for reaching the 23 games against major opponents, you can now throw Nebraska into that lot. Within conference, you add two games apiece against USF, Rutgers and I'll toss in SMU -- if Larry Brown is your coach, you belong. That gives you 20 (counting SDSU).
What does all this mean? If UC adds a total of three more games against formidable opponents -- even if those teams didn't make the tournament last year -- you have a near replica of last year's slate. The challenge grows a bit when Louisville and Rutgers leave the league next season, but one year at a time. And this year looks like another top 30 schedule.
--- Also, hope everyone can take time to watch this video of the relationship between Jordan Luallen, Munchie Legaux and a courageous 9-year-old. The stories of these off-the-field successes aren't told nearly enough. Cool to show two great representatives of the Bearcats.
I know for my generation and certainly those younger than myself seeing this date doesn't mean much, but for those who remember the D-Day invasion at Normandy back in 1944 this day will never be forgotten. Still unbelievable to think about the enormity and courage of that attack. One of the last -- let's hope -- of that type of massive face-to-face attack in our history.
Worth reflecting on for a moment today.
Great photo posted by my guy Todd Jones of the Columbus Dispatch here. Crazy to imagine what you had to be thinking in that second.
But you didn't come here to see my thoughts on world history, time for Bearcats.
Let's eat ...
--- Big news of yesterday was UC officially announcing a matchup against Pittsburgh in the Jimmy V Classic. They will be the opening game of the annual doubleheader at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. Dec. 17. They'll be followed by Florida-Memphis.
1) The Jimmy V Classic is among the grandest stages in the college basketball non-conference schedule. Being a part of it means officially being recognized among the big boys in the sport. UC established itself as such making the tournament and winning three games there the last three years. But in this sport where perception matters immeasurably to the stability of the program, this should fly like a proud flag in the front yard.
2) A great move for the NY pipeline inside the UC program right now. With so many NY/NJ area players (Sean Kilpatrick, Shaq Thomas, Jermaine Sanders, Jermaine Lawrence) building the core of the roster it's a reward for them to return to MSG despite the conference tournament being moved away from there. It also continues to strengthen that NY recruiting foothold which has been among the most important developments in the reconstruction of the program.
3) This reinforces the same point I've been saying since the day the Big East basketball schools broke off. Games like this on major stages in the non-conference will easily offset the loss of the conference schedule depth. Right now we know a trip to New Mexico, neutral site against Xavier and Pittsburgh are on the books. More games will be released and I'm willing to bet the number of top-tier teams played will compare favorably to last year.
Chris Mack of Xavier talked with Andy Katz about the same balance, only from the reverse side in his morning blog. Scheduling is a tough business these days, but bottom line is to face a certain number of top-tier opponents to be prepared for The Dance and impress the committee. There are multiple ways to make that happen.
--- Kelvin Gaines is transferring to North Texas. Because he graduated in three years, he'll be able to play immediately with the Mean Green with two years of eligibility. Mick Cronin spoke at length with Bill Koch about the move here.
Gaines suffered an injury and would have been limited this year and a space needed to be cleared with the late addition of Jermaine Lawrence. Bottom line, Gaines wasn't going to play as much here and needed a chance to show what he can do.
He took a major step forward last year. He has stretches during games where he was a savior with Cheikh Mbodj and Dave Nyarsuk either struggling or in foul trouble.
Will be fun to see his development when he's playing every day and I'll be sad I can no longer track a statistic made famous by former UC SID Jeremy Martin for most blocks by a body part other than his hand. Gaines went three straight games with an elbow block two years back, one of the more impressive streaks I've seen.
--- Congrats to Josh Dangel who took home All-American status in the pole vault. He finished tied for seventh at the nationals in Eugene, Ore., yesterday. He cleared 17-8.5 on his final vault. Being the seventh best in the country at what you do isn't half bad.
--- Today is the day for Terence Somerville. I spoke with him last week about his chance at redemption at Nationals in the 110 hurdles last week. Here's that story.
His semifinal heat will be tonight at 8:20. Keep it locked to GoBearcats.com for the results. If Somerville qualifies for the finals it will be run Saturday at 6:16 p.m.
Have to be excited for Somerville who will attempt to go out on top during his final collegiate race.
Talked to him after the Bengals took BP before the game and he was pretty darn proud, as he should be. The Reds staff even tracked down the home run ball for him. He was one of three players on the team to hit one out of the park (TJ Johnson, Bryce Davis).
Guessing all those days spent golfing didn't hurt his ability to turn on the ball.
--- Referee Mike Kitts announces he's moving out of on-court ref business.. Our guy Chuck Machock must be letting out a sigh of relief. Kitts can't get him again after famously tossing him out of the NCAA tourney game against Gonzaga. The odds of The Streak living on longer just increased significantly.
Dan Hoard has probably talked about this as many times as there are games in the streak, but will happily talk about it again if you ever meet him. Just ask David Letterman.
--- Rutgers. Yikes. Think somewhere in the B1G offices there's a group of executives looking for a way out of that agreement?
--- Spending $300 on headphones doesn't make sense to me, even as cool as these look. I bought a special pair of headphones this week and my $20 Sony's were right on the shelf next to the $300 Dre Beats. I feel pretty good about my decision.
--- Shoot any comments, questions and suggestions to email@example.com and hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr. And I know I don't always play to the country demographic but in honor of today's weather and a delightfully catchy song, here's Luke Bryan. Have a great day everybody.
The WUGs take place every two years and Yancy Gates took part in the tryout in 2011, but didn't make the team that eventually went 7-1 despite finishing fifth in China.
Cutting the impressive tryout list down to 12 players won't be easy for Jim Boehiem and his staff who oversee the construction of the team. Kilpatrick's Twitter feed exploded with excitement as he found out last week of his inclusion in the June 24-30 training camp at USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo.
As all the different variable were weighed two months ago when Kilpatrick made his decision to return to UC, the opportunity to take part in USA basketball was one of the perks pushing him toward Clifton.
"With you coming back to school you'd be able to do a lot of things, especially with this program," Kilpatrick said of the camp, whose only criteria are the invitees be returning collegiate players. "Doing things that a lot of great players haven't done when they came to this school and being able to actually get my degree. That was really an amazing experience but as soon as he mentioned the USA thing I was really excited for it knowing that if I decided to leave I would never have a chance to go through the process with it. Staying, it really played a huge part."
As for his chances of making the team, he'll be competing with a crew of talented shooting guards for likely three or four spots. There are a few combo guards, but here's the list of shooting guards joining him at the tryout.
Player, team: Points, assists, 3-point percentage
Sean Kilpatrick, UC, 17.0 points, 1.9 assists, 30.7%
Eric Atkins, Notre Dame: 11.2 points, 5.2 assists, 41.5%
Kendall Williams, New Mexico: 13.3 points, 5.9 assists, 34.8%
There's only two guards on the list who scored more points per game than Kilpatrick did last season. Only Tyler Haws of BYU and Bryce Cotton of Providence filled it up more. Neither of their teams qualified for the NCAA tournament. The one stat Kilpatrick will need to show he's improved on will be his 3-point percentage, but though that number dipped from his previous two seasons where it sat at 37.6 percent.
Whenever I go against the best competition I play the best, for some reason," Kilpatrick said. "It will be great because you are playing against 30 of the top players in the country. You don't get a chance to do that on a regular basis when you are working out with your team and traveling back and forth to see your family. If I am able to do that for a whole week I can't imagine what's going to happen when I come here."
Beyond excitement, honor and prestige, inclusion in the camp places Kilpatrick into a summer regiment unparalleled during his basketball career. Most days he spends working out, whether on a stationary bike or basketball court, to prepare for the mile-high conditions in Colorado as well as the elite competition.
He knows to expect exhaustion thanks to words with Gates about his experience in the camp two years ago. Kilpatrick immediately picked the brain of his former teammate upon finding out he'd be participating.
"He said it's a lot of conditioning and a lot of running. With the stuff that I am doing now hopefully it will carry over with the USA thing," he said.
He's utilizing the typical in-season routine for his offseason regimen this year and gaining a jump on his game shape. The type of workouts he's putting himself through normally belong in the preseason training season, but now he's established a head start on those.
But for a player who was mildly recruited out of New York and earned his position off a redshirt season at UC, this invite means more than extra preparation for his senior year. Strapping on the USA uniform signifies a larger accomplishment.
"It's actually been amazing due to the fact I've worked all my life for a situation like this," Kilpatrick said. "'I'm just happy to be in that situation. A lot of guys don't really go there and tryout. Only like 30 guys going, 30 guys out of how many collegiate players? That's really a big deal."
How big could it be for Kilpatrick? Taking a look at the historical spike in production from the players who participated in the University Games for USA exposes an undeniable change. Few will reproduce the move made by Kenyon Martin after participated following his junior season. He evolved into the National Player of the Year and overall No. 1 draft pick.
Those types of improvement are more the exception than the rule. Looking at the 2011 group of USA players Draymond Green added 3.6 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, but nearly across the board players enjoyed similar statistics before and after the USA experience. As much as increased competition and exposure to a higher level of play can improve his game, most of the ascension toward his goal of the NBA comes in the preparation hours spent in the bowels of Fifth Third Arena practice facilities.
"The most important thing I need help on is my left hand. Every day I have just been in the gym working on that left hand and really sitting here trying to do quicker moves to get my shot off a lot faster because I know the type of defenses I'm going to have face this year," he said. "I just really want to help this team win. Continue to keep doing what I've been doing the last four years I've been here. That's just trying to be a leader."
Being a leader means more than yelling at freshmen and speaking to the media. It means thinking about more than his own personal agenda when enjoying opportunities such as the one in Colorado. It's a concept Kilpatrick takes to heart.
"It's important due to the fact I know I got this university depending on me," he said. "Going out there and actually representing my university, that's something that plays a huge part in it."
EXTRAS FROM SK:
On his reaction to the honor:
It's actually been amazing due to the fact I've worked all my life for a situation like this. Being able to really sit down with coach and talk about it and now he's been working since the summer started to make these camps and make this USA team, it's been a real good experience.
On what he has been doing to prepare:
This. Just really working out. Coach, he's been telling me to stay in game shape and be able to stay in that shape where I don't get tired. if it comes down to me at least pedaling on that bike for 40 minutes a day then that's what I'm going to have to do to make this team.
On asking Yancy about the experience:
I asked him already. He said for first two days it's going to be hard due to the fact it's hard to breathe out there. And actually he said it's a lot of conditioning and a lot of running. With the stuff that I am doing now hopefully it will carry over with the USA thing.
On if he's ever been involved in anything like this, even on younger level:
This is actually my first time doing this. I thought actually it was going to be a camp until coach said the guys will be playing in Russia. I thought, Russia? Only time we've been out of the United States was Canada and you can't really count that, so, it's actually pretty good. I'm really excited for it.
On feedback he received when he decided he wasn't going to the NBA:
I spoke to coach about everything, he said really the most important thing I need help on is my left hand. Every day I have just been in the gym working on that left hand and really sitting here trying to do quicker moves to get my shot off a lot faster because I know the type of defenses I'm going to have face this year. I just really want to help this team win. Continue to keep doing what I've been doing the last four years I've been here. That's just trying to be a leader.
On this being a different team this year and what he's seen from the new players:
I say this every year to the guys that's coming in, especially because we know this is a new process for them. If you aren't going to come with your hard hat I don't know what to say to you. Not only are you going to hear it from me but you are really going to hear it from coach Cronin. He expects nothing but to give your best effort and go out there and play hard. The younger guys really have a sense of it.
I want to hear from you, shoot me any questions, comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Been a minute since I've cooked up the Breakfast in its truest form. The lack of summer news makes it harder to keep the everyday morning posts coming without me rambling on about Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episodes or play-by-play of my weekend cornhole games.
In case you like those topics, I have to give a huge shout out to everybody that participated in the 10th edition of the Dehner Cornhole Classic on Saturday. By some miracle the rain held off and by another miracle I fell apart in the final game of the championship for a second consecutive year. Still, fantastic showing and great time had by all. Maybe a little too great for some, but that's a tradition like many others.
Anyway, there are some pockets of news developing inside the athletics department even without actual games going on.
Let's eat ...
--- Got to start with the new American Athletic Conference logo I haven't had a chance to weigh in on yet. You like it? I'm sold.
It's tight, sharp and, most importantly at this point, finally begins the process of rebranding the league and the teams inside it. Positive steps in PR and image have been needed since the dissolution of the old Big East started. This logo feels quite a bit like step one in the process of turning this league into a relevant player in the national discussion. The next step is a powerful team winning games and making a run for the playoff when it begins in 2014.
--- Wouldn't hurt if a team outside of Louisville, whose leaving after this year, can find a way into their final BCS berth as well. Probably the best bet to accomplish that task at this point is the Bearcats -- but I'm guessing you believe that.
UC finished last season 18th in the country in sacks allowed per game while 14th in yards per rush. With all five starters back up front and a new pro-style offense conducive to grinding teams into a pulp, there's your team image.
Finishing the year in the top 10 in rushing yards per attempt would be a realistic goal for this group. Half of the teams who finished in the top 10 in yards rushing per attempt last year ended up in BCS games.
Take a look at the BCS bowl game participants from last year and where they finished in yards per rush. As much as the spread offense air attack takes over the storylines, running the ball effectively and keeping the QB clean still wins games.
Team: Rank Yards/Rush
N. Illinois: 8
Florida State: 4
Kansas State: 37
Texas A&M: 2
Notre Dame: 30
--- Expecting to talk with Sean Kilpatrick later today, he's got news about the exciting development in his summer exploits. If you don't know about that, just check his Twitter feed. Look for more later this week.
"You know Penn State just abhors Pitt. It would be the same way. Even though we love Cincinnati as a city, we want it to be an Ohio State city. They'd have to take (athletic director) Gene (Smith) out and shoot him to let Cincinnati into the Big Ten. There are some things that we just would not do. And that's the way that Penn State also feels about Pitt."
President Ono later tweeted that Gee called him to apology and Ono accepted. Needless to say beating Ohio State on Sept. 27, 2014 sure would bring a few smiles around this city.
--- The AP is reporting that the B1G is jumping in to the Pinstripe Bowl spot. What will become of the other spot in the Yankee Stadium bowl game that the old Big East has been a part of it is yet to be seen. There appears to be a chance they are left out with the ACC to move in, but that all falls into the land of speculating on speculation.
--- Lance Stephenson has been recognized as the barometer player on a team attempting to pull off one of the great upsets in recent NBA playoff history. Everyone expected the Heat to run through these playoffs as more of a coronation than anything. Yet, tonight, they'll try to avoid elimination by a young team from Indiana. Much of that is due to Stephenson.
Here are his numbers in wins compared to losses in this series:
--- Great momentsin jorts history. Surprisingly, Andre Agassi at No. 1 and not someone from Gainesville, Fla.
--- It's one thing for security to chase down a possibly sloppy man running on a baseball field. What do you do when it's a Siberian Husky? Apparently nothing. Or maybe there is zero security at CWS games.
--- Feels like a Led Zep day. Over The Hills And Far Away for your Monday.
Remember, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions for the blog shoot me an email at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr. Have a great day.
Senior Terrence Somerville will run his final collegiate races at the national championships next weekend and can complete a job that went undone two years ago.
CINCINNATI -- Two years ago, Terrence Somerville lined up next to seven other athletes with a national championship on the line in his signature event, the 110-meter hurdles.
As the career defining seconds at Drake University unfolded, Somerville fell. He would touch the hurdle with two hands and find himself disqualified. In one of the biggest events of his life, he didn't finish.
Thanks to a Big East championship last weekend, he now earns an opportunity two years later as a senior to make his illustrious UC career be known for how he finished.
Somerville set a UC record with a time of 13.41 seconds at the Big East meet to qualify for the Track and Field Championships next week in Eugene, Ore. One month after he walked across the stage to accept his UC degree, Somerville chooses an optimistic view of his past, present and future. Considering his run to Oregon, it's hard not to.
"It was definitely frustrating at the time," Somerville said of his fall. "At this point that is no longer in my mind at all. I still know that it happened, but I very rarely focus on the bad things and the times that I fail. I am very confident going in this year."
Confidence stems from comfort. The Drake championships represented the largest event of his evolving career. Two years later, Somerville runs with the two years of major moments inside his cleats.
Understanding how to deal with the expectations and nerves of that day stick with Somerville as he reconstructs another attack at a title. He knows getting out of bed that morning is when he'll be most nervous and the situation will calm once he arrives at the track.
He understands no stage will too big. Taking part in the Olympic Trials last year taught him that. He ran alongside lifelong idols and though he didn't finish where liked, little doubt remained he earned the right to be there.
"It was a confidence builder just showing I can go out there and compete with those guys," Somerville said. "You have to throw everything out the window and be ready to run and show you belong there. That is the key, just really responding like you belong there."
It doesn't hurt to be running faster than at any point during his career, either. Somerville set two personal records this year, including the school record number last weekend. It came with a wind-aided asterisk, but was faster than anyone else in the conference that day.
His next level times only go farther to establish himself as one of the best hurdlers in school history. He came into this year owning three of the top four times in UC history in the event with only David Payne's record of 13.42 above him.
Previous records won't mean much in Oregon. A deep field will keep mere hundredths of a second determining good from great.
"Whoever is in the final, those eight guys are going to be legit," Somerville said. "They are going to be ready. All the times are pretty close. Everyone knows what everyone is capable of. The beauty of sports is you actually have to do it that day."
For an athlete on the brink of a crowning achievement, Somerville maintains a humble focus. Sure, he's thought about the feelings that would be associated with winning the race, but he lets those pass. The same way he let the memory of his fall pass through his mind. All thoughts these days concentrate on executing in Oregon.
He's run next to his idols, overcome nerves only a major race can elicit and now ascended back to the biggest stage in his sport. With a national semifinal heat set for June 6 and potential national championship in primetime Saturday, June 8, he's never felt more ready to finish.
"Just having the experience kind of calms my nerves a little bit knowing that I have been there before knowing that I was there before," Somerville said. "In a hurdle race anything can happen, but I think I'm pretty prepared this year. Good thing I got the fall out early so I can possibly do better the second time."
I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
We've officially reached the offseason lull, which only means it's time to start the countdown to opening day against Purdue.
Today reaches 102 days until UC kicks off against the Boilermakers at Nippert Stadium. Not exactly tomorrow, but nearly double digits. I'll take grasping onto double digits if it means we start talking about football again.
With the junior college transfers now in the house and more still on the way, the cast of characters are officially moving from concept to reality. Reality insists this Bearcats team should be atop the list looking up at Louisville in The American when the season begins. Much has been made of their ninth easiest schedule in the country, according to Phil Steele. (By the way, big bad B1G power Ohio State plays the 21st easiest schedule on that list, just saying)
Confidence and wins can produce magical results, not just for the national profile but development of the players. All is yet to be seen and nobody can see much clearly right now 102 days out, but there's plenty of reason to be excited in Clifton.
For my Saved By the Bell aficionados (sorry UC students), it's the equivalent of when Zack held a separate prom from the actual prom in a romantic candlelit picnic table setting because Kelly Kapowski's broke folks couldn't afford the real one. Now, that's all fine and good as kissing was followed by high-pitched screams from the piped in audience track. Lovely.
Yet, if he sets all that up for one of Screech's debate nerd girls, it sure doesn't feel quite so special. Now, The American probably shouldn't expect a Kapowski equivalent opponent (she is clearly the SEC of this scenario), but they'd surely settle for a Tori sans biker jacket(B1G) or non-hopped up Jesse Spano (ACC).
I know you didn't expect obscure SBTB analogies today, but that's the kind of mood I'm in.
--- Random aside: Why did Lisa Turtle never have any real love interests despite fending off Screech's creepy advances. And shouldn't she have just filed a restraining order and be done with it?
Still wondering if Happ belongs among the first team Frosh All-Americans? His numbers stack up almost exactly in the middle of last year's collection of infielders. The RBI numbers is the only one that falls to the bottom of the list, but that can be as much accredited to lack of opportunity in front of him as anything else.
You have to take defense into consideration here as well, and, that did prove to be the weakness that could come back to haunt Happ as he committed a team-high 23 errors.
With the stick, however, his stands stand exactly where last year's top freshman infielders landed.
Those awards won't be out for a while, but look for Happ to be in the conversation once they are released later this summer.
The Bearcats season came to a close Saturday, but the foundation built by a budding collection of freshmen could live on in the coming years.
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
A season cut short by disappointing losses and ending with the cloud of coach Brian Cleary being relieved of his duties enjoyed too few memorable moments. Yet, in the big picture of the program, the lasting memory of the 2013 Bearcats baseball team could be the foundation laid of a freshmen class poised to led the program into it's latest incarnation.
Five of the 16 freshmen emerged as regular starters, adding two more at the top of the weekend rotation. Cleary won't be coaching in Clifton to see the 16 freshmen return next year, but you can bet he's proud of them for what they have accomplished this season and how they adjusted to the pace of collegiate baseball.
"I think we were able to attract some really good players and they were able to get a lot of time under their belt and I think they got a chance for great success in the future," Cleary said.
The freshmen and other returning upperclassmen continued improving and building momentum for next season with an 11-5 win over Notre Dame on Saturday, taking two of three in the final series of 2013.
Every player contributed with at least a hit, freshman or upperclassman. But, as it's been for most of the year, a few particular freshmen stood out.
By far the most consistent freshman on the team, infielder Ian Happ, has impressed many people his first year, including his coach.
"He's done a good job throughout the course of the season of being pretty consistent and I think he's going to wind up being a really solid player," Cleary said.
Saturday, Happ went 3 for 3 with two RBI, three runs scored and two walks, including a home run to right field that he knew was gone as the ball came off the bat. It served as an exclamation point for a mighty impressive for the freshman from Pittsburgh.
Happ finished tied with junior outfielder Justin Glass for the team lead in average at .322. He led the team in home runs with six. He collected 13 doubles, one triple and 36 RBI. He also walked a team-leading 47 times. He's most proud of this statistic, only because the biggest area of improvement in his mind was getting better with his pitch selection.
"I've gotten a lot better at narrowing down the pitch that I want to swing at and I think that's helped a lot," Happ said.
RHP Mitch Patishall took the ball for the final game, and pitched well again, giving up eight hits on two earned runs and only walking two batters through six innings. He got the win and finished the season with a 4-4 record and a team-leading 4.09 ERA.
He got better as the season went on, pitching more innings and going deeper into games. His turning point was the game against Louisville at GABP, and from there, he kept gaining more confidence. He went at least six innings in each of his final five starts, only once giving up more than three runs. That included a complete game shutout against Villanova. He attributed it to getting more comfortable on the mound and says pitching in GABP definitely helped him with that.
"That was a big stage, so it helped me get experience and just learn how to throw to college guys and, making pitches," he said.
Happ and Patishall weren't the only freshmen to contribute this season, however.
Outfielder Forrest Perron had his moments, including his first career home run at Marge Schott Stadium against Xavier on May 8. Although his average wasn't where he'd like it to be, he feels more comfortable in the box now than at the beginning of the season. Part of this might be due to the fact he's adjusted to the speed of the game and the timing of the fastball.
"It's a little bit different adjustment coming from high school and early in college," he said. "But I feel like I'm more comfortable attacking the fastball now."
In his first full season, RHP Connor Walsh also pitched fairly well, culminating in his last start against Butler May 14, in which he gave up only one earned run, with nine strikeouts, in 6.1 innings.
Cleary had to constantly remind himself it was really Walsh's freshman year because of an injury last year and therefore struggled with consistency at times.
"For him, it's not so much a matter of getting better, as it is just getting more consistent," Cleary said. "I think he takes pitches off some times and kind of loses focus, or maybe sometimes doesn't even understand what he's trying to do on some pitches and gets himself into some tough situations. But the stuff is good; I think he's got a chance to be really good."
Infielder Devin Wenzel ended up with a .286 average, good for fourth on the team, and proved his versatility by playing all over the infield. Catcher Woody Wallace finished with a .259 average, but started most of the games behind the plate and gained valuable experience in his first year.
Of course, the freshmen had the benefit of learning from upperclassmen such as Glass and junior outfielder/shortstop Matt Williams, two guys who have had success at the collegiate level.
"They've done a lot, especially in the fall and the start of the spring, just letting you know what to expect and how to handle failure, because in high school, you don't fail a lot," Happ said. "In college, it turns into more of a game of failure and how to deal with that."
Williams knows freshman year is the hardest, but thinks these players did a good job maturing throughout the season.
"I think all of them have learned a lot this year and I think they just need to build upon it," Williams said.
Senior infielder/catcher J.P. Jackson agrees he has seen the younger guys grow as the season continued and can only hope the advice and leadership he and the upperclassmen provided them paid dividends. He's confident it has though.
"I think they're going to be a really, really great team in the years to come," he said.
SENIOR DAY: The three seniors on the University of Cincinnati baseball team capped off their final game at Marge Schott Stadium in style, taking two of three from Notre Dame and doing so on national TV (CBS College Sports Network).
LHP Thomas Gentile, RHP Andrew Strenge, and INF/C J.P. Jackson all saw action in the final game of their collegiate careers and all played well.
Strenge relieved starter Mitch Patishall in the seventh and pitched 2.1 innings, allowing only one hit and one walk with two strikeouts. Gentile came into the game in the ninth to get the final two outs in the game by way of a 4-6-3 double play.
Jackson played the entire game at shortstop, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. Jackson best summed up the day when he called Saturday's game "fun."
"It's been a privilege to play here and I've met a lot of really great guys," Jackson said. "It's just a really fun way to go out."
Enquirer reporter Bill Koch joins me on the podcast this week. If you haven't read Bill's five-part series on the state of UC athletics, stop and do so now. It's required reading for any Bearcats fan at this point.
Bill joins as we talk about what he discovered chatting with nearly every figure involved in creating the past, present and future of UC athletics. We also delve into the optimism, frustration and general awkwardness that comes with maneuvering through such a difficult landscape as that which evolved over the last few years.
Of course, the conversation tangents to cookies, golden quote nuggets and spurned girlfriends, but was as informative as any podcast you will hear anywhere in covering the state of the program.
Plus, a group of his buddies drove all the way to Florida to root him on, according to my Twitter mentions, there will be another group making the much more digestible drive through Ohio to soak in this round.
He hoped to be placed into the Ohio State portion of the bracket or else he could have been flying all over the country to compete. Instead, he'll have another contingent of friends and family following him in Columbus. That will also include the 1-2 video team punch of Tommy G and @VideoShane.
Keep it locked to GoBEARCATS.com for all your updates.
Let's eat ...
--- Season finale series begins today at Marge Schott Stadium. Notre Dame comes to town as the Bearcats try to carry some momentum and a few more conference victories into next season.
While football and basketball are losing some top competition with the American move, baseball will be adding southern schools where baseball is played year-round and recruiting grounds are fertile. Consider all four teams joining from the the southern states in the next two years currently own winning records with a recent history of success.
ECU (2014/15): 28-25 -- won five straight series, made NCAA tournament last two seasons
Tulane (2014/15): 27-25 -- went 38-20 last year.
Saturday will be Senior Day for the Bearcats and they'll honor Thomas Gentile, Andrew Strenge and J.P. Jackson. Nearly all of the Bearcats lineup and rotation should be returning next year depending on draft picks and other variables.
For those who want to attend game times are 6:30 p.m. today, 7 p.m. Friday and 4:30 p.m. for the season finale on Saturday.
--- Also, kudos to junior infielder Ryan Quinn who has become the ringleader of one of the best developments in college baseball interviews since I've been around.
After every victorious interview with BearcatsTV at the tail end of this season, a collection of Bearcats have performed some type of shenanigans in the background. The choreographed masterpiece from Tuesday's win against Butler was awe-inspiring.
I have to believe something like this needs to be rehearsed and drawn out in the dirt at some point during the game, right? I will only say my expectations are high for this weekend, Ryan. The bar has officially been raised.
Also, check back to this blog as I'll sit down with Bill for a podcast this week and we'll discuss the series, everything he learned and likely a slew of other UC-related topics.
--- Kelly Babcock, Suzanne Tuberville and UCATS hosted Girls Night Out Wednesday at UC, bringing some of the female supporters of UC athletics onto campus. This was the first year of the event and another great idea to round up all aspects of the fan base. Too often the female contingent is forgotten because the audiences at football and basketball games tend to be so testosterone driven.
--- Unfortunately, bad news for George Winn, who was cut by the Texans yesterday. Still believe there is a place for Winn on a training camp roster somewhere.
--- OL Sean Hooey, endured a difficult run the last few years with the Bearcats latched on with the St. Louis Rams for camp. After an injury during his junior year he never regained a starting position. It was odd and frustrating for him, but great to see Hooey gain his shot at the league.
--- Jameel Poteat, who left UC this summer, has surfaced at Stony Brook. Keep an eye on the Sea Wolves if you want to see how the former top recruit does landing on his feet.