May 13, 2012
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. — Redshirt sophomore pitcher Christian McElroy (Middletown, Ohio/Monroe/Sinclair CC) set a career high in strikeouts and senior catcher Braden Kline (Warsaw, Ind./Warsaw Community) drove in four runs as the University of Cincinnati baseball team defeated Villanova University 6-2 Sunday afternoon at Villanova Ballpark.
Cincinnati put together a complete team effort to earn its first BIG EAST Conference series win. The Bearcats showcased overpowering pitcher, striking out 11 Villanova batters; timely hitting as six runs were scored with two outs; aggressive base running that totaled seven steals; and several run-preventing defensive plays.
McElroy, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, struck out a career-high eight batters and allowed two runs (one earned) on just four hits in 6 2-3 innings to pick up his third win of the season.
Kline went 3 for 3 from the plate with a run scored and four RBIs, his season best during league play.
In addition to Kline, the Bearcats received a three-hit performance from senior outfielder T.J. Jones (Cincinnati, Ohio/La Salle), who hit 3 for 5 and scored twice. Redshirt freshman outfielder Ethan McAlpine (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller) and freshman third baseman Joey Bielek (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chapparal) each had two-hit days, with McAlpine adding a career-high three stolen bases.
The Bearcats pushed their lead to five runs with a four-run sixth inning. Jones hit a one-out triple to right-center field; the seventh three-bagger of his career, placing him tied for 13th in program history. Senior designated hitter Cory Hough (Springboro, Ohio/Springboro) walked and then stole second before Kline produced his third and fourth RBIs of the ballgame with a two-run double to right field. After a Villanova pitching change, McAlpine roped a first-pitch double to left field, driving in Kline from second base. McAlpine then stole third base just before sophomore second baseman Ryan Quinn (Sparta, N.J./Sparta) lined an RBI single to center field, which plated McAlpine and gave Cincinnati a 6-1 lead.
Villanova threatened in the bottom of the sixth after the first two Wildcats recorded hits to put runners on the corners, but came away with just one run thanks to two great defensive plays by the Bearcats. Jones made a diving catch in right field for the first out of the inning and Bielek charged in from third base on a bunt and made a nice throw to first base on the run.
McElroy punched out VU third baseman Kevin Wager in the seventh inning for his eighth K of the day, setting a new career high. He was relieved by junior left-hander Thomas Gentile (Westerville, Ohio/St. Francis DeSales) after issuing his third walk that put runners on first and second with two outs. Gentile ended the threat by striking out the first batter he faced.
Villanova scored its second unearned run of the game in the bottom of the eighth inning to close the gap to 6-3.
The Bearcats added an insurance run in the top of the ninth that moved its lead back to four at 7-3. McAlpine hit a leadoff single to center field, stole second and advance to third on Quinn’s sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, senior first baseman Nic Spence (Victoria, Australia/St. Joseph’s/Central Arizona CC) drove in McAlpine with a two-out RBI single to right field.
Gentile finished the game for UC after allowing just one unearned run in 2 1-3 innings with three strikeouts.
UC produced the first run of the game in the top of the first inning. Jones hit a one-out single to right field. Two batters later, Hough walked to put runners on first and second with two outs. With the count 3-1, Kline lined a single through the left side of the infield that drove in Jones from second base and gave the Bearcats a 1-0 advantage.
Cincinnati increased its lead to 2-0 in the top of the third inning. Hough hit a one-out double down the right-field line and scored on Kline’s liner to left-center field; his second RBI single of the day.
The Wildcats scored their first run of the ballgame in the bottom of the fourth without producing a hit. After McElroy struck out the leadoff batter, the Wildcats loaded the bases thanks to a fielding error, a hit batsman and a walk. McElroy struck out left-handed hitting VU right fielder Connor Jones looking with a breaking ball on the outside corner for out No. 2, but walked center fielder Jordan Zech that made the score 2-1.
Villanova starting pitcher, sophomore right-hander Max Almonte threw 4 2-3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
McElroy tied his previous career high of seven strikeouts after recording two punchouts in the fifth inning.
The Bearcats will conclude their season with a three-game BIG EAST Conference series against Georgetown University, beginning 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Marge Schott Stadium. All three games against the Hoyas will be video streamed live on GoBEARCATS.com/allaccess.