Friday, February 19, 1999

UC baseball team aims for improvement




BY SCOTT MacGREGOR
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The University of Cincinnati, coming off a 15—38 season in 1998, probably isn't going to win Conference USA this year. But as coach Brian Cleary enters his third season, the Bearcats appear to have taken a step upward with an infusion of young talent — much of it plucked from high schools in the Cincinnati area.

        “We're going to be better than we were last year,” Cleary said. “How good, I don't know.”

        With Cleary's aggressive recruiting of local stars as the foundation, the Bearcats, who begin the season today at Furman University in South Carolina, have posted back-to-back nationally recognized recruiting classes. That alone won't get UC to the top of the challenging C-USA, but Cleary says it's a step toward turning UC into a winning program.

        “It's kind of a process for us,” Cleary said. “We've got the right kind of guys. As they develop, and if we add one more (top recruiting) class, we're going to be talented enough to compete in this league.”

        Fifteen of the 30 UC players are from the Tristate area or elsewhere in Ohio, and five of the eight starting position players are local.

        “A lot of local guys are starting to look at UC differently,” Cleary said. “We need to get to the point where the experience is we offer is so good, they'll want to stay here.”

        Said sophomore left fielder Matt Singer, from Purcell Marian High School: “Whenever you see players going to a place, you assume the program is on the upswing. I'm a Cincinnati boy. I think it would be a great thing to help turn this program around, to say I had a hand in that.”

        Leading UC are area sophomores Craig Tewes (St. Henry High) and Singer (Purcell Marian), both members of the C-USA all-freshman team last season.

        Singer, a left fielder who bats third, hit .289 with 12 homers and 41 RBI. Tewes, a first baseman hitting cleanup, hit .291 with 11 homers and a team-high 53 RBI. Sycamore's Kevin Youkilis, a sophomore third baseman, also returns with his .289 aver age and school-record 44 walks.

        “No one's going to stand out and carry the team the whole way,” Singer said. “If we all do our part, we'll have a good shot at winning some games.”

        Freshman additions include catcher Chris Hamblen (Highlands), a switch hitter with power from both sides who was an 18th-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox last summer, left-hander power pitcher Joey List (Beechwood) and right-hander Doug Ming (Lawrenceburg, Ind., East Central), who will challenge for spots in the rotation.

        Junior center fielder Anthony Snowell, a speedster who hit .306 last year, senior closer James Steele and senior left-hander Tony Cento, a Covington Catholic product who led UC with seven wins in '98, are the only upperclassmen atop the depth chart at their positions. Senior Corey Hinton (Oak Hills) could split time in right field.

        “We're a lot more talented than we've ever been,” Cleary said, “but we're still not all that experienced. We're still in the process of getting better.”

       



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