March 19, 2011
By Shawn Sell
CINCINNATI – Jake Proctor hit his second game-winning home run of the season, helping Cincinnati rally for an 8-6 victory and a doubleheader split on Saturday afternoon at Marge Schott Stadium. Proctor’s third bomb of the year capped a three-run eighth inning for the Bearcats (9-6), winners of eight of their last 10. Western Michigan (10-10) scored twice in the top of the ninth of game one to pull out a 2-1 victory.
Offense was at a premium early in the finale for the Bearcats as they tallied just one run and two hits through the first five frames. Trailing 4-0, freshman Matt Williams got the Bearcats on the board in the bottom of the second, launching his first career home run to left. The Broncos took advantage of a first inning error to plate a pair of unearned runs in the first on an RBI groundout by Grant Simotes and a run-scoring single by Ryan McMillin against starter Brad Mergen. WMU tacked on two more in the second on RBI singles by Vinnie Booker and Zach Thoma and went on to build the lead to 5-1 with a single marker in the sixth on another RBI single by Thoma.
UC’s offense came to life in the sixth narrowing the margin to a single run at 5-4. T.J. Jones delivered a sacrifice fly for the first run and then pinch-hitter Jake Saylor came up big, ripping his first career home run over the left field wall to cut the deficit to one. Another WMU run in the seventh stretched the visitors lead out to two, but UC matched it in the bottom with a Sam Vandenheuvel RBI single.
The Bearcats went ahead for good in the last of the eighth to make a winner out of reliever Brian Sand (2-0). Nic Spence started the frame with a single, bringing Proctor to the plate for his heroic blast. UC tacked on an insurance run when Chris Peters darted home on a WMU throwing error. Zach Isler notched the final three outs for his second save of the season.
The opener featured a dazzling pitching performance by sophomore Andrew Strenge
that went for not as the Bearcats’ bats struggled against WMU hurler Casey Webber. Strenge hurled eight shutout innings at the Broncos, allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out a season-best eight. Webber, matched Strenge nearly pitch for pitch, yielding just three hits and three walks, with nine strikeouts over seven innings.
The Bearcats finally scratched out a run in the top of the eighth when Peters lifted a sacrifice fly to center to plate Vandenheuvel. UC turned the ball over to Isler for the ninth but he started the inning yielding a walk, single and hit batsman to load the bases with one out. Cory Hough was then summoned from the bullpen to relieve Isler and he was greeted with a first pitch RBI single by pinch-hitter Theo Piccirrilli. Booker then laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score the winning run for the Broncos. Eric Heckaman completed a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his second win of the year. The defeat was pinned on Isler (1-1).
Justin Riddell and Williams each tallied three hits in the twinbill for the Cats, while Vandenheuvel and Spence had a pair of knocks each for UC in the finale.
UC will try to close out the four-game series with the Broncos on Sunday with a win, sending senior Nick Johnson to the mound in search of his third win of the year. First pitch from Marge Schott Stadium is set for 1 p.m.