BIG EAST Baseball Championship Preview

GOBEARCATSDOTCOM Sophomore Zach Isler is the likely opening game starter for the Bearcats.
GOBEARCATSDOTCOM
Sophomore Zach Isler is the likely opening game starter for the Bearcats.
GOBEARCATSDOTCOM
Baseball |

May 23, 2011

Game Notes Get Acrobat ReaderLive Video | Live Audio | May 25 Live Stats | May 26 Live Stats | BIG EAST Championship Central

By Shawn Sell
GoBEARCATS.com

 

  • After yet another highly-contested regular season in the BIG EAST, to say the 2011 edition of the BIG EAST Baseball Championship is wide open is quite an understatement. While regular season champion Connecticut did claim the crown on the next-to-last week of the year, just three games separated positions three through nine in the final rundown. As the league's top-eight converge on Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. this week, a wild and drama-filled tournament is sure to be on tap.

    The Bearcats' BIG EAST Championship fate wasn't even decided until the final day of the regular season last Saturday when senior Dan Jensen delivered a solid six-inning pitching performance to topple the champion Huskies in the series finale. While each of the Bearcats' seasons in the BIG EAST has been a grind, head coach Brian Cleary doesn't remember a season quite like this one.

    "It's just mind-blowing to think that you could go into not just the last weekend, but the last day where, and this was true for both us and Seton Hall, you could wind up in fourth place or you could be left out," he says. "It's just a really tight race. You always know that one game is going to separate second and third or third and fourth, but it seemed even more true this year where one game was separating five or six spots."

    As a "reward" for making the tournament, UC which came out on the short end of a four-way tie for fourth place in the league race, will enter the tournament as the No. 7 seed, facing BIG EAST runner-up St. John's in Tuesday's 1 p.m. opening round contest. The Red Storm weren't kind to the Bearcats in the opening weekend of conference play, sweeping UC in the three-game set, including a pair of one-run victories. Despite the early season results, Cleary is looking forward to the match-up.

    "We played St. John's the first conference weekend and lost three really close games there where I felt like we could have won all three and as it turns out we lost all three," he says. "I think anybody outside of Connecticut, they have kind of separated themselves from the rest of the league; I think the rest of us are all very similar teams capable of winning. I don't think there is going a big difference in any of the opponents that we could have drawn. St. John's does have a strong No. 1 guy in Hansen who is very, very good."

    Kyle Hansen, the Red Storm's likely opening round starter, was an eight-game winner for St. John's this season, while posting a 2.56 ERA and 93 strikeouts. In the regular season against UC, Hansen struck out 10 in seven innings of a 3-2 win. The Bearcats are likely to counter with a surprising name in sophomore Zach Isler.

    "We obviously had to use Jensen on Saturday for a good bit so it wouldn't be good for him or for us to bring him back on short rest," Cleary says of the decision. "Isler was been pitching well lately so hopefully he can keep that going."

    As Cleary points out, Isler has been on a bit of a roll late in the season. After being dogged by inconsistency this season, the 6'5" right-hander has allowed only three earned runs in his last 18 innings of work, including a complete game in the opener of a doubleheader against Seton Hall on May 14th.

    To make a BIG East Championship run similar to the 2008 edition that pushed the Bearcats into the finals, Cleary says it will be vital for his team to continue pitching well and playing solid defense. While he is pleased with an offense that finished fourth in the BIG EAST in hitting, all three facets of the game must be consistent.

    "I think we are going to have to get better performances out of our bullpen than we have gotten," he says. "We need to have somebody come out of the pen and give us a good performance. I think if we can pitch and play defense, I like where our bats are right now, we can succeed. I think we are probably ahead of some of the other teams in the field offensively. If we can not give away runs by pitching and playing good defense, I think we have a chance to score enough to win some games."

    While Connecticut with 22 BIG EAST wins and St. John's with 18 lead the pack, the rest of the tournament field all won between 13 and 16 league contests, setting the stage for what should be a competitive championship event. As for what team(s) beyond the top-two could make some noise, Cleary's thinks it's really hard to say.

    "I think everybody could make some noise," he assesses. "I think that's a fair statement because we have like two or three games separating two from eight in the standings and everybody has beaten everybody. I think that Pitt offensively is pretty electric and if they get hot can cause some people some problems with the way they swing the bat. We played well against them, but they and West Virginia are both very strong offensively. I think you really could pull a name out of a hat and I think everybody probably feels the same way that they have a chance to go in and win the thing."

    The BIG EAST Championship kicks off on Wednesday with a full slate of four games, including UC-St. John's at 1 p.m. The Bearcats will continue in the double-elimination event on Thursday against either Pittsburgh or Louisville.


  •  

     

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Gunner Kiel impresses at UC football's spring game

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Youthful UC can make its own history next season

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      UC's defense makes statement in latest scrimmage

      FanIQ.com

      Remember Gunner Kiel? He's Ready to Dominate

      SportsIllustrated.com

      Hank Hughes Q&A

      New York Times

      Growing as a Player, Beaming as a Father

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      NCAA Tournament is 'Cincinnati vs. the world'

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Kiel comes out strong in Bearcats' spring scrimmage

      Sporting News

      2013-14 Men's Basketball All-Americans

      Fox Sports

      Cincinnati made me a believer

      CBS Sports.com

      Former redshirt Sean Kilpatrick finishing out historic career

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Q&A with UC AD Mike Bohn

      ESPN

      Brennan's Wooden Watch: Week 14

      MLSSoccer.com

      Fit and healthy, Omar Cummings offering a new dynamic up top for Houston Dynamo

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Men's soccer signee Clark named Gatorade Ohio player of the year

      ESPN

      Munchie Legaux and Shaq Washington gain extra year

      Denver Post

      Mike Bohn eager to point Cincinnati Bearcats in right direction as AD

      The Washington Post

      No. 7 Bearcats have highest ranking in 10 years

      Yahoo! Sports

      How Sean Kilpatrick willed UC past Louisville and back into the nation's consciousness

      SI.com

      Cincinnati takes over AAC with win at Louisville

      ESPN.com

      Tough Bearcats don't get rattled

      ESPN.com

      UC staves off Temple to stay perfect in AAC

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      UC looks to 15-year sports admin vet Reed-Francois for interim AD

      CBS Sports

      No. 15 Cincinnati stomps UCF, wins 11th straight

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats take down USF 61-54, win 10th straight

      USA Today

      Why Cincinnati is not a team to sleep on

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Short-handed Bearcats cautious about ranking

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      UC's goal: win them all at home

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Cronin: Not easy, but Cats got through fatigue

      The News Record

      What you missed in UC sports during break

      FB Schedules

      Boise State, Cincinnati Schedules 2019, 20 Home-and-Home Series

      Forbes

      The Best and Worst College Football Teams for the Money

      USA Today

      Report: Colleges doing poorly at hiring women coaches

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Randolph named AAC Player of the Week

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      UC women's basketball knocks off Ohio State

      Bleacher Report

      Belk Bowl 2013: Cincinnati-North Carolina

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Belk Bowl: UC vs. UNC

      ESPN

      Belk Bowl Breakdown

      BelkBowl.com

      The Showdown is Set

      ESPN

      Cards, Bearcats set for defensive battle

      CBS Sports

      Louisville-Cincinnati Preview

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Thursday is UC's fight for perception

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Don't let UC's next opponent fool you

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      UC jumps to No. 23 in USA Today football poll

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats break into USA Today Top 25

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      McKay turns in monster game against Rutgers

      ESPN

      Kay throws for 408 yards, 4 TDs as Cincinnati routs Rutgers

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats won't lessen the pressure

      News & Record

      Pressure takes toll on NC State against Cincinnati

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats face variety of bowl scenarios

      The News Record

      UC weary of SMU's aerial attack ahead of AAC clash

      Bleacher Report

      Best College Football Moments in Cincinnati History

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Mark Barr returns to UC, gets ovation

      HoustonDynamo.com

      After frustrating year, Omar Cummings puts Houston Dynamo on his back with clutch playoff goal

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      UC's Shaq Thomas 'our version of Herb Jones'

      USA Today

      Cincinnati holds off Memphis for third straight

      ESPN

      Cincinnati's Mark Barr out of hospital

      TopDrawer Soccer

      Furman and Cincinnati men go nose-for-nose in College Goal of the Week

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Green seizing his moment for the Bearcats

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats' Jermaine Lawrence is new breed of forward

      UC Magazine

      Hostility to Hope: Feature on Men's Soccer Player John Manga

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats' Jermiah Davis III fights to be remembered

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats' Justin Jackson goes from energizer to example

      The News Record

      Cronin excited for new group

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      UC Bearcats' Sean Kilpatrick: 'It's the season now'

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats basketball will have fresh look

      The News Record

      UC Looks to RetainVictory Bell for Eighth Consecutive Season

      Miami Herald

      Kay Ready to Lead Bearcats into Rivalry Game

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Former Bearcat Thompkins making most of shot in NFL

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      New practice setup could benefit UC basketball

      ESPN.com

      Munchie Legaux out for season

      ESPN.com

      Cincinnati Rolls Past Purdue

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Bearcats defense puts up dominant effort

      American Athletic Conference

      2013 Team Previews: Cincinnati Bearcats

      Sports Illustrated

      Bowl projections: Cincinnati vs. North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl

      Cincinnati Business Courier

      Bearcats sell out football opener against Purdue

      Cincinnati Enquirer

      Depth at defensive line still strong for Bearcats

      Bleacher Report

      Cincinnati Bearcats Football 2013 Team Preview

      UC Voted 2nd

      Coach Tuberville and his players discuss their reactions to being voted to finish 2nd in the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference

      QB Timetable

      Coach Tuberville discusses his timetable to choose a starting QB with The Cincinnati Enquirer

      Thompkins at Patriots' Training Camp

      Former UC wide receiver, Kenbrell Thompkins, impressed many at Patriots' training camp 

      World University Games

      Sean Kilpatrick talks about his experience overseas

      World University Games

      Sean Kilpatrick talks about his experience overseas 

      Nippert Renovation Plan

      The Cincinnati Enquirer looks at the Nippert Stadium Project

      Cincinnati football's 'Crocodile Dundee'

      A former professional rugby player from Australia joins the Bearcat football team

      2013 Preseason 'Watch List' 

      Several Cincinnati Bearcats make 2013 national 'watch list'

      Sports Insider Today

      Young Cincinnati Team Looks to Improve in 2013 Amidst New Conference Setting

      ESPN Blog

      Cincinnati to play Pitt in December

      GoBEARCATS.com

      Former Bearcat Herman Qualifies for U.S. Open

      USA Today

      BearcatsTV Gets National Attention from USA Today's For the Win

      SportingNews.com

      Cincinnati Bearcats Baseball Earns Top Honors in Videobombing

      The Washington Post

      Cincinnati Bearcats Do the Best Postgame Interviews

      Fox Sports

      Bearcats Rock Postgame Interviews

      Philly.com

      Cincinnati Bearcats Revolutionize the Post Game Interview

      YardBarker

      You'll love this Cincinnati Bearcats Post Game Funny Business Compilation

      Philly.com

      Those guys having all the fun: An oral history of the Cincinnati baseball team's videobombs

      MSN Now

      This college baseball team wins the 'best interview' award

      ESPN.com

      Winn, Cincinnati run over Pittsburgh

      Cincinnati.com Bearcats Blog

      Cincinnati looks to sophomore RB Ralph Abernathy to increase production