In a town where Major League Baseball dominates in popularity, smaller levels usually don’t get the recognition they deserve, especially after stellar seasons on the diamond. While the Bearcats didn’t excel throughout the whole season, they conquered the improbable in the postseason and gave their fans a reason to rally behind a sometimes forgotten Cincinnati baseball team.
The start to the season was not pretty, and the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be fading away. After series losses against FAU, Houston Baptist, and Auburn, the Bearcats were sitting at 1-9 before sweeping Bowling Green. Even a series win against the Falcons couldn’t provide a spark for Cincinnati as they lost their next four out of six before switching gears for AAC play.
Cincinnati traveled down to Tampa to take on the USF Bulls and came away rather successful, securing the series win after dropping the first game. A quick midweek win against NKU gave the fanbase a boost of confidence until they traveled to Tulane and got absolutely smoked in the first two games before salvaging the series with a Sunday victory.
The Bearcats were in a rut, never being able to climb the mountain without hitting a bump in the road. It didn’t look to get much easier for Scott Googins and Co. as they traveled up to Connecticut to face the number twenty two team in the nation. After squeezing out a victory on Friday and dropping the game on Saturday, Sunday seemed as important as any game for the Bearcats all season. Led by Wyatt Stapp’s 4-hit ballgame, the Bearcats were able to take the series from the Huskies and looked as if they had finally conquered the wall they hit all year.
To finish the regular season, Cincinnati never piled together strands of solid baseball. They had stretches of winning four straight, then losing three straight, then winning four straight, then losing four straight. Through all of this, however, they were able to clinch the number two seed for the American tournament, a key spot as they would not have to face an extremely dangerous ECU until the championship game. It was going to be a long shot, but the chips were already starting to come into play.
In the first two games, Cincinnati was able to pull away from teams late game, stringing together long innings and finally waking up the offense. It wasn’t always pretty as the Bearcats faced an early deficit against UCF, but an 8-1 run to end the ballgame helped Cincinnati advance to the championship. ECU, on the other side, couldn’t take care of business as they faltered twice against Wichita State, a team that finished the season 28-31. Everything was set up perfectly for Cincinnati, but only UCONN stood in their way for a chance to clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 45 years.
Cincinnati got up big and early, never looking back on their way to a 22-5 victory to capture their first AAC championship. After receiving their bid to fly out to Corvallis, Oregon, to take on the Oregon State Beavers, the Bearcats took an early lead to begin the game but gave it up later in the seventh inning before coming back in the ninth with an A.J. Bumpass triple to put the cherry on top of his 5-5 night at the plate.
Although they lost their next two games against Michigan and Creighton, Cincinnati still had one of the marquee upsets of the tournament so far. To have Scott Googins in this position in only his second year is remarkable and is a true sign of more prosperous seasons to come as most of his 2019 roster was loaded with underclassmen and juniors. On top of the team’s stellar season, Bumpass was drafted by the his hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds. If there was any player worthy enough to be selected, it was Bumpass, especially with his adversity to overcome a sluggish start to the season. The future is bright in Clifton, and it’s time the city of Cincinnati starts to recognize the success of the Bearcats.