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Bearcats Breakfast 5.22.13

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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)

The bottom line is the two challenging non-conference foes it turns out don't look as challenging as originally thought. For instance, Purdue and Illinois are projected to the bottom two spots in a weak B1G in this preview piece. 

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. 

Let's eat ...

--- The American is wrapping up its conference meetings in Florida. They could be looking to bring their own bowl game there as well. A fantastic idea that appears to be gaining steam. A bowl game at Marlins Park would be a great trip for any fan base. The key will be procuring a quality partner conference to match up against. 

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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? 

--- Also, the financial terms for the exit fee distribution have been ironed out. It's not as lucrative as the original amount expected for UC, UConn and USF, but still would fill quite a few gym bags. 

--- Memphis for the 2014 AAC tournament would be fine with me. Incredible venue, great city, great food. Rendezvous, I'll see you soon. 

--- MIck Cronin is proud to be an American, as Mike DeCourcy writes. We've talked at length about the advantages of this move for the basketball program and I think there are many more than people realize. Mick delves into a few of those.

Without a doubt, the league should already be negotiating with Hulk Hogan and the WWE for theme music.  


--- The baseball season officially wrapped up last weekend. Our Ashley Davis, who did a fantastic job covering the team this season for the blog, took a look at the development of one of the best freshmen classes in recent memory at UC

You'd have to start giving thought to 2B Ian Happ for a freshman All-American nod. 

Here was his slash line (BA/OBP/SLG): .322/.451/.483. He added 41 runs, 36 RBI and 6 homers. 

Let's take those numbers for Happ in comparison to the Baseball America 1st team Freshman AAs last season for infielders. I'll even throw in the second team AA second basemen for context:
 

2012 BA 1st Team Frosh AA Infielders

Name Batting Average OBP Slugging Runs RBI HR
Ian Happ, 2B, Cincinnati .322 .451 .483 41 36 6
Sam Travis, 1B, Indiana .319 .397 .509 41 50 9
Pat Kelly, 2B, Nebraska .313 .345 .521 27 37 8
Trea Turner, 3B, NC State .336 .432 .459 72 43 5
Andrew Daniel, SS, San Diego .339 .494 .487 37 45 4
Casey Turgeon, 2B, Florida (2nd team AA) .281 .368 .407 35 30 4

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. 

--- Randomness ...

--- Anything involving Chris Rock is funny to me. I think this picture fits the bill. 

--- The original baby from the Hangover is returning for Hangover 3. That's cool, I assume, but nobody will really know that. Well, except you informed readers. 

--- I have had more trouble lately with phone battery issues than ever since buying my iPhone 4S a year and a half ago. Turns out, this 18-year-old at a Science Fair may have all my answers. Let's make this happen immediately, Apple. Freaking awesome. 

--- The 10 Greatest Moments in Charlotte Bobcats History is exactly what you think it would be. 

--- How about some Pitbull? Why not. It even comes with a special cameo to tie a bow around my SBTB tangent. Have a great day everybody. 

Season sets foundation for talented freshmen

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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. 

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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. 

Thanks again to Bill for joining. You, of course, can read his regular reporting on UC athletics here at Cincinnati.com, follow him on Twitter here @bkoch or hit up his blog at this link

Remember, you can subscribe the podcast on iTunes by following the link here and clicking subscribe, or you can search for the Inside the Bearcats Podcast on your mobile phone podcasting app of choice and subscribe there so the podcast will come directly to you the moment it's posted. 

Have a great day everybody. Enjoy. 


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Bearcats Breakfast 5.16.13

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Bearcats Big East champion David Tepe takes to the Scarlet Course at Ohio State today opening the NCAA Regional tournament. Remember, Tepe came from off the radar to win the BE tourney in Orlando by scoring his first tourney of the year with three consecutive rounds under par. 

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. 

Tepe tees off at 9:40 a.m., you can follow along to see how he did at the scoretracker here. 

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. 

Our Ashley Davis continues to do a great job on the baseball beat and wrote yesterday about the emergence of junior Matt Williams over the second half of the season. He was slowed by a hammy injury early in the year, but once he got healthy he started raking. He will be a centerpiece of next year's team, one that appears built to take a huge step forward in what will be a difficult new league. 

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. 
  • Houston: 33-19
  • UCF: 28-25 
  • 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. 

--- Hopefully you've been reading your Enquirer this week as Bill Koch has churned out a fantastic five-part series on the Bearcats current situation. They've all been informative, well-researched and spelling out the reality of the situation. 

Wednesday's highlighted the bright future for the Bearcats despite the move out of the Big East. Great read. 

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. 

--- Randomness ...

--- You can listen to people discuss the important things to know when using social media, or you can just always do the opposite of Amy's Baking Company. 

--- Anybody who has experienced the cicadas here every seven years would probably love to eat a few off this menu, just to prove a point to their living brethren. 

--- Attention Cincinnati music fans, The National's new album is streaming on iTunes. 

--- Walking the fine line between impressive and repulsive in Pittsburgh. 

--- End of The Office tonight. I haven't watched since Carrell left. His prime seasons there were some of the best in recent TV history. Boom. Roasted. 

Junior Matt Williams finding confidence down the stretch

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Junior Matt Williams appears to be blossoming into the star UC coach Brian Clearly believed he recruited with the spike in his offense the second half of the season. 

By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com

CINCINNATI -- The junior campaing for Bearcats infielder/outfielder Matt Williams didn't jump off to a pretty start, but as the season has hit the home stretch it's become apparent his talent is blossoming toward a highly anticipated senior season. 
 
After early struggles and a hamstring injury, Williams has started to heat up and entering the final series with Notre Dame, is batting .320 with 20 RBI through 43 games.
 
His hamstring injury, a byproduct of cold weather, benched him for six games in March. Before the injury he hit just .130.
 
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Of course, a player never wants to have an injury during the season, but Williams acknowledged that adversity is part of the game. And maybe a part that helped pull him out of the early slump. 
 
"I was able to rest it in the beginning, take a few games off and get right back into the season, which was nice," he said.
 
Since the injury, his numbers have soared. The Louisville series served as a turning point, as he was hitting just .227 and saw his batting average rise 59 points to .286 after that series. He says the key has been his focus during the precious at-bats he has gotten.
 
"I didn't have as many as, say Justin [Glass], so I knew I had less at-bats to use," Williams said. "I couldn't just waste them."
 
The Mason native and a CHCA graduate struggled slightly during his first two years at UC. His freshman year, he hit .250 with 1 HR and 10 RBI in 184 at-bats. His sophomore year, he hit .241 with 2 HRs and 19 RBI in 199 at-bats.
 
This year, his at-bats have been fewer (153), but his average is much higher and he already surpassed career highs in hits, with more doubles and singles, than in previous seasons.
 
This requires a certain maturity, one Williams thinks he has found. Things have started to click for him.
 
Going into his senior year, his goal is not just to carry the focus of his at-bats over to next year, but also keep his maturity level up and assume a leadership role for incoming freshmen.
 
"After this year, I've really proved I've matured [the] last two years from a freshman to a sophomore [to] now," Williams said. "I've really shown that I can play."
 
Head coach Brian Cleary agrees something may have clicked for Williams as well.
 
"He is finally starting to resemble the player that we all thought he could be all along," Cleary said. "And I think one of the things he's learning is to trust his own ability and not trying to step in the batter's box and hit a five-run home run every time he's in there."
 
This is the maturity Williams talks about, such as taking singles when given to him.
 
"He's just putting good swings on the ball and some of them are singles and some of them are doubles," Cleary said. "I think he's starting to get consistent."
 
Cleary sees confidence building in Williams with every game. He's starting to see the player they envisioned when he was recruited.
 
"I think he's primed to have a really good season next year," Cleary said.

Bearcats Breakfast 5.13.13

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Hope everyone enjoyed a lovely Mother's Day yesterday. I know I did, but now it's Monday again. So, there's that. 

For those looking for a lift on Monday morning, I did find out Community is being renewed for another season, to my surprise after their darkest timeline finale on Thursday. Found it interesting in what I thought was their least entertaining season of all and one where they were pushed back months after their anticipated premiere, NBC shows more faith in it than ever. But, what do I know, and who cares. More Troy and Abed in the morning, please. 

Let's eat ...

--- Final of baseball games for this season this week, starting with a Tuesday game against Butler (6:30 p.m.), then Notre Dame comes to town for a three-game set starting on Thursday (6:30 pm.), Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (4 p.m.). That will round out a year of building the foundation around an impressive group of freshmen for UC. 

If you haven't been out to MSS this year to take in a tilt, I'd highly recommend doing so this week. No, the record doesn't show it, but the next few years look bright with this group. 

Freshman pitcher Mitch Pattishall proved it yet again with a quality start in UC's lone victory of the Santa Clara series this past weekend. He went seven innings with five strikeouts, allowing three runs in the 7-3 victory. 

With so much talk about the development of the freshman another strong season from Justin Glass has been lost in the conversation a bit. The junior held down the middle of the order and led the team in RBI and total bases with a .306 average. In a year of ups and downs he's been a beacon of consistency. 

--- Spoke with JK Schaffer for a bit this weekend at Bengals rookie mini-camp, he's there working on things and getting prepared to make a run at a roster spot for next season. 

He's put on some extra muscle and appears to be far and away in the best shape of his life. Not that anyone would be surprised to hear such things from the repeated overachiever.

Did say he's spending most of his free time playing golf these days. Picked up the game about four years ago, apparently and is already firing even par rounds at Miami Whitewater. As if there was any suspense over what helps carry his game, he can bomb it off the tee.  

When I asked him if he's over 300, his facial expression gave the impression he's flying it over three spins. Put in your scramble requests now. 

--- Also, Cam Cheatham was invited to the Bengals rookie mini-camp. Nice for him to be working with the hometown team. He'll be a long shot to land on the team, but by all accounts showed well. 

--- Some news from last week I hadn't been able to get to yet was the date being set for The Crosstown. It will be Dec. 14. Not necessarily news, although, I do like the game moving to Saturday night. If you are going to hold it downtown and have it be a celebration of the revitalization of that area along with college basketball, it needs to be on a weekend night. The weeknight deal last year didn't make much sense to me, of course, that was the last thing on people's minds before last year's game. 

Man, do I love on-campus games, but for this city and this rivalry I still believe that's the top venue for this game going forward. We will see what happens after this, but I thought the atmosphere was special there last year. Nearly all who were in the house agreed. 

--- If you haven't seen Bill Koch's multi-part series on the state of UC's conference affiliations, you should be. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here, which posted today. 

Great look at the reality and challenges this department is dealing with at the moment. 

--- Randomness ...

--- I can't imagine bacon hot dogs being anything but delicious. Is there a food people aren't shoving bacon into these days? Feels like we are in the Golden Era for the product. Forget the Industrial Revolution or launch of Rock N'Roll, can't imagine a better era to be living. 

--- Hitting the club, it's not just after dark anymore. 

--- Love the emergence of these fake Gmail inbox screenshots. The latest on Derrick Rose is strong to quite strong

--- Even though Mother's Day was yesterday, have to post a great mom song. If you grew up loving hip hop as a kid, LL Cool J pretty much takes the cake.

Out, Not Down: Baseball Turns to Bright Future

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UC has been officially eliminated from the Big East tournament picture, but with a talented crop of freshmen finishing out the season they are gaining a jump on an anticipated 2014. 

By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com

CINCINNATI -- While the Bearcats enjoyed a season series sweep over crosstown rival Xavier after back-to-back wins Tuesday and Wednesday, they did not share that same success against Big East conference teams this season.

With a 4-17 conference record, they currently sit in second-to-last place, ahead of only Villanova, and are three games behind St. John's for the eighth and final spot in the Big East tournament May 22-26 in Orlando.

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UC plays Notre Dame in a three-game series at Marge Schott Stadium starting next Thursday during the final weekend of the season. The Fighting Irish play at St. John's this weekend. Even if ND sweeps St. John's and UC sweeps the Irish, the Bearcats would still be eliminated from tournament play by way of losing the tiebreak with the Red Storm, since they lost two out of three at St. John's earlier this season.

"I'm sick that our season will end next week, but I also feel good about the direction that the young guys are going," head coach Brian Cleary said.

Although the team won't be making the trip to Orlando, it doesn't mean the season is a lost one. The playing time the freshmen have gained this year can be invaluable as the Bearcats work at getting better for next season.

"We're playing so many guys that are going through this for the first time and the beauty of that is so many of these young players have played more than would be typical for freshmen," Cleary said. "We're going to have a more experienced group of returners than most people might."

With seven games left in the season, Cleary's preached to his players that this is their head start for next season. Obviously they want to win as much as they can, but Cleary also knows the importance of building for next year.

"We've got a ten-game jump on everybody to try and get our freshmen even more comfortable, [and] get some of the guys who haven't played playing," he said.

Cleary made his quest obvious when he shook up the lineup against Xavier on Wednesday, playing freshman catcher Russell Clark, redshirt freshman outfielder Taylor Schmidt and freshman infielder Colin Hawk. Hawk had started 24 games and Schmidt and Clark had each started 17 games before Wednesday.

According to Cleary, with Clark, it's just a matter of alternating between the two catchers, him and freshman Woody Wallace. But with Hawk and Schmidt, both young players, he's trying to determine who can step up as a potential everyday player at their respective positions next year.

Schmidt has the talent, but an injury for most of the season last year and an injury earlier this season relegated him to the bench. Now that he's healthy, Cleary wants to see if he can develop into an everyday player.

"He's got a chance to be an above-average defender in center field," Cleary said. "We just have to get his bat going somehow."

Hawk has struggled in his first year, but took a step in the right direction on Wednesday, going 1 for 2 with two walks and three runs scored.

Cleary acknowledges his team still has work to do to be a team that can compete for a conference title. But he thinks the players on this team have the capability to do it.

"This group is poised to be pretty good," Cleary said.

We want to hear from you! If you have any comments, questions or thoughts about UC baseball hit up Ashley Davis on Twitter @AshleyDavis32. 

Mackenzie Fields rises to pole-vault champ

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Senior Mackenzie Fields emerged from minimal pole vault experience in high school to the UC school record holder during a spectacular career. 

By Katie Mann/Special to GoBearcats.com

CINCINNATI - When Mackenzie Fields attended Mariemont High School, a pole-vault pit didn't exist. Occasionally, at a practice held at Turpin High, Fields would give the skill a shot.  

It took Fields a couple years to gain a knack. Her freshman year she started jumping with her highest jump around eight feet. By her senior year she reached 11 feet, 9 inches. 

Four years later, finishing up a UC senior year including two Big East Athlete of the Week awards and adding a second Big East title this past weekend, she can only laugh at those early days. 
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"The other day, I was looking back at some newspaper clippings that I sent to colleges trying to get recruited," she said. "These were from my junior and senior year, and I was going over the bar backwards. What was I thinking sending that horrible form to college coaches?"

Fortunately for the Bearcats, coaches ignored the form. 

After sending out recruitment forms to several different colleges, Fields chose to join the UC track team because of all the great people she met on her recruit visit.

"I had been to other schools and none of them felt as welcoming, fun and friendly, and supportive as UC," she said.

Through her progression with the Bearcats, Fields experienced pitfalls such as hurting her hamstring in her second year and undergoing foot surgery in her fourth. Due to the injuries, Fields began to lose confidence in her abilities, because of this she endured frequent rehab and conditioning. But by receiving extra workouts and constant support by coach Kris Mack, Fields began to realize that she could do it.

"I have tried to teach her what it means to be a consistent vaulter and how mental strength is what determines the outcome of the bigger meets," said Mack, "I try to expose her to many different situations and scenarios in practice so that she always look back and say, 'Oh yeah, I worked through this before and know how to overcome it."

On March 30, Fields broke the school record of 14'1.25" at the Nikiloff Invitational. Fields was also named Big East Women's Field Athlete of the Week for her first place finish at the Jesse Owens Track Classic three weeks later.

Currently, Fields is planning to train for the 2016 Olympic trials and Olympics in Rio. Fields will need to vault over 15 feet in order to go to the trials and a bit more to make the Olympic team.

"She is one of the strongest girls I have ever worked with and I have enjoyed that process of teaching her to use that strength and power to vault," adds Mack.


Bearcats Breakfast 5.7.13

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Happy Tuesday, everyone. I'm starting to feel more and more like an old guy these days. Waking up to random pain after not doing a thing the night before. Then it goes away and you feel pain in another part of your body the next day. I think the someone has a pain remote and is laughing hysterically at my plight. 

I digress, but if you see me hobbling around campus, feel free offer any ideas or some Aleve. 

Let's eat ...

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--- The football open house is tonight. A cool concept for fans to get an insider look at those connected with the program. Of course, Tommy Tuberville will be in the house along with AD Whit Babcock, players and Voice of the Bearcats/Bengals Dan Hoard. 

As lucky media types, we get access to these guys all the time so we maybe take it for granted, but they're all great personalities to have fronting the program -- along with so many others in the administrative/coaching offices. 

If you are looking for more information, you can check it out here.

--- As some of you will find out tonight, few can weave a tale quite like Tommy T. He sat down with Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com for an hour and Dodd plucked the top stories out of it. I'd highly recommend combing through them. I found his discussion of possible playoff expansion to be interesting: 

"I don't think they'll ever go to eight teams. I was in I-AA playoffs at Arkansas State and that's a survival contest. You got to remember, we only played through two playoff games one year we were beat up. It's not just the game. You've got to practice to get ready for the game and you've got to practice through finals. It was hard.

"If you went to eight or 16 teams you'd be jumping into that part. I've never been for paying players, but if they go to eight or 16 I'd be for paying players. Then you're going to look at buying insurance for guys. I don't want to play that game." 

--- Those were just the extras of Dodd's visit. The must read is his analysis on realignment, Tuberville and the state of Bearcats football in uncertain times. Dodd does a fantastic job putting in place the reality of the situation

--- Can't contend Tuberville is thinking inside the box with regards to personnel. UC added a professional Australian rugby player to the roster and plan on trying him out at linebacker. This from Tom Groeschen. 

--- Bowl tie-ins are becoming scarce as the Power 5 snatch many up. Just add it to the list of unknowns heading forward. 

--- UC Big East champ David Tepe found out his national tournament draw yesterday and it was good news. He had his hopes set on landing at the Ohio State regional and did just that. The other options took him all over the country, but this way there will be a much more familiar feel at the Scarlet Course. 

We may even see a return of the strong four fraternity brothers that made the trek to Orlando. If you haven't read that cool story, you can follow the link here

--- Never got to this last week, but UC received the rings for their shared Big East title and Belk Bowl victory. Nice swag. You look at a few of the seniors who left this year, they head out the door with four rings from five years. No matter how much it's discussed, not enough is made of the run that class made. 

Better believe if I was walking through that graduation, I'd have all four rings clinking on my fingers the whole way across the stage. 

--- We've written in this space a few times this spring about Anthony McClung, but Andrea Adelson took a run at the senior wideout in this blog. Even as an established guy, McClung enjoyed the most promising spring of about anyone on the squad. 

--- The NCAA announced the 2014 and '15 Final Four semis will be televised on TBS instead of CBS. That's fine. As long as they don't move to TruTv and the national title game is followed by an all-new episode of Lizard Lick Towing, I'll be happy. Maybe with TBS they can sneak an old Seinfeld episode into halftime instead of letting Charles Barkley ramble. 

--- More on the Lance Stephenson story. The Indy Star writes about how the controversial decision to stick with Lance is paying off. He has become a rebounding machine in the playoffs from his guard spot. 

During the regular season he hit double-digit rebounds twice. He's now done it each of the last three playoff games. 

Here's his averages from the last four games (final three against Atlanta and opener vs. NYK): 9.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists. 

Not many could have seen that coming two years ago, except for Larry Bird. 

--- Randomness ... 

--- If you went to bed before the final four minutes of what appeared to be a Golden State blowout of San Antonio you missed the best NBA game of the playoffs

--- Charles Ramsey. Bless you for all that you are and all that you brought to our lives. What I wouldn't give to eat ribs and listen to salsa music with you. 

--- Cincinnati band The National played one song for six hours recently. And you complain about the length of Stairway to Heaven. 

--- Remember if you have any UC comments, questions or just want to recap the stories Tommy T told you, shoot me an email to pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr. 

--- Meanwhile, here's the lineup for the Austin City Limits music festival. It is predictably ridiculous. I'm a Kings of Leon fan myself, among many of the others there, so I'll leave you with them. Have a great day everyone. 

Outside the ropes: What made David Tepe's title special

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David Tepe's journey to UC's first Big East golf title was spectacular as much for what occurred outside the ropes as what occurred inside them. 

Walking toward the Reunion Resort clubhouse in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday for the first round of the Big East championship golf tournament, UC senior David Tepe turned the corner near the putting green. 

Suddenly, he spotted a sprawling group of familiar faces. His mother and father were there, as he expected them to be. As was his grandmother and grandfather, who snowbird in Florida this time of year. As much as their presence brought out open arms, further inspection provided a dropped jaw as well. 

Along with them were four brothers from his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. They secretly hopped in the car and drove 898 miles to surprise him for what could be Tepe's final golf tournament as a Cincinnati Bearcat. Little could any of them have known then their presence provided a major reason it wouldn't be the end. 

The crew of eight would be with Tepe every shot of the incredible three-day, 54-hole ride to his crowning career achievement capturing UC's first-ever Big East title in golf and spot in the NCAA Regionals. 

"I just couldn't believe they'd made the drive down," Tepe said of David Clark, Jonas Butler, Pat Dryer and Brian Kapcar. "That was something special."

From that moment forward, this tournament felt different than any other Tepe experienced with UC. Remarkably, it concluded with his first major tournament victory since his junior days at Lakota East High School. He'd taken part in dozens of tournaments during his four-year career at UC and even come close to winning, but never held on. Then, here, on his final shot, he couldn't miss. 

And with every drive splitting the fairway, every pinpoint approach to the green and every long putt the reaction didn't sound like the standard soft claps and chirping birds associated with college golf tournaments. 

"They brought a lot of energy to the golf course, I would say," Tepe said with a laugh suggesting understatement. "A lot more than I would be used to."

He supplied more reasons for excitement then he'd be used to as well. In ripping off three consecutive rounds under par for the first time in his career (69-69-70) he went wire-to-wire to stave off closest competitor Chase Koepka (USF) by one stroke. 

The critical moment came on his second-to-last hole of the tournament, when he stood over a 25-foot birdie putt. He'd decided to stay free of tracking the leaderboard all day, but finally broke down before this putt asking his coach Doug Martin if a birdie would help. 

Boy, would it. 

We'll get back to that in a moment. Next comes the other interesting beyond-the-glory aspect of this story. Tepe found that in recent tournaments where he couldn't quite push over the hump into the top five or even victorious positions the problems fell far more on the mental side than physical. 

To counter that he picked up two books the week before the Big East tournament, Putting Out Of Your Mind by renowned putting guru Bob Rotella, as well as Fearless Golf: Conquering the Mental Game by Dr. Gio Valiante. 

Fearless Golf preached the importance of patience in attacking the golf course. He gives that patience direct credit for the difference between his past showing and this incredible run. 

"That really helped the third day," Tepe said. "Started on 10 and 11 and 14 are birdie holes. I didn't birdie those. But then I birdied 15 and 16. I put myself in similar situations last summer where I tasted the success, but didn't quite finish it off. I think that all comes down to just being patient on the course."

And it eventually came down to his putt on hole 53. As he looked over his putt, Rotella's putting book flashed into his head.  

"I read it; I liked the way it looked," Tepe said. "One of the things (the book) talks about is picking a line and sticking with it, don't second guess. Don't try to reread the putt. Just read it once, pick a line and stay committed to it. I picked a line and when I went to address the putt just said, 'All right, head down and get it to the hole.'"

Bottom of the cup. 

He felt at that moment the putt might have won the tournament. He was right. 

Though, there was no Adam Scott at The Masters moment with primal screams and dog-pile of family and fraternity brothers on the final green. 

A first pump followed both his birdie and final putt for par, then he patiently waited 15 minutes in the clubhouse for Koepka to finish. When the win became official a calm celebration with the gathering proceeded. It didn't need to be wild to be meaningful. 

"I just kind of gave it a little fist pump and looked at the guys and my family that came down and thanked them all for being there," he said. 

I want to hear from you! Share your comments, questions or thoughts about anything UC or Tepe's incredible Big East championship run by emailing me at pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.