LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Powered by another quality start on the mound and a fast start at the plate, the top-seeded Louisville baseball team advanced to its fourth NCAA Regional title game in six seasons with a 6-3 victory over Kansas on Saturday evening at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Cardinals (47-15) will play in the championship game of the NCAA Louisville Regional on Sunday at 4 p.m., ET against the winner of the Kentucky-Kansas elimination game, set for Sunday at noon. With a victory on Sunday night, Louisville would advance to next week’s Super Regional round, while a loss would setup a winner-take-all title game rematch on Monday night.
Sophomore righty Anthony Kidston (Defiance, Ohio) led the way on the mound for the Cardinals allowing just two runs on five hits with six strikeouts in seven innings to improve to 8-0 this season and 13-0 in his collegiate career. With his third straight seven-inning performance, Kidston lowered his career ERA to just 2.44 while increasing his strikeout total to 115 in 110.2 innings.
At the plate, Louisville scored the first five runs of the game with freshman outfielder Corey Ray (Chicago, Ill.) setting the pace going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored. The three hits are a career-high for Ray, who has a .522 average as a starting outfielder in the last eight games. Senior outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky.) chipped in with two hits, one run driven in and one run scored, while junior second baseman Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky.) was2-for-4 with a double and one RBI. Junior shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa.) added a single, two walks, two stolen bases, two RBI and two runs scored as the Cardinals out-hit the Jayhawks 11-6.
Louisville started the scoring in the second inning when senior third baseman Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind.) scored from third on a RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of junior shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa.). Chittenden was hit by a pitch from Kansas righty Frank Duncan to lead off the inning and moved to third on a single by Ray and a throwing error by Jayhawks’ third baseman Tommy Mirabelli.
The Cardinals pushed the advantage to 2-0 in the third inning when Sturgeon scored on a RBI double down the right field line by senior outfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky.). Sturgeon reached base with a one-out single and moved to second on a groundout before the Gardner double.
An inning later, Louisville rolled up a three-spot against Duncan on a trio of RBI singles from Whiting, senior catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky.) and Sturgeon. After leading off the inning with a double to center, Ray scored on the single to left by Whiting. Following a pair of stolen bases allowed him to move to third, Whiting scored the second run of the inning on the single by Gibson. A throwing error by Kansas second baseman Colby Wright allowed Gibson to move to second before the single from Sturgeon.
The Jayhawks (35-25) broke through for their first run of the day in the fifth inning on RBI groundout by Mirabelli. Louisville responded with a run in the top of the sixth on a RBI double down the left field by Lucas to score Whiting. Kansas followed with a run in the bottom of the sixth when outfielder Tucker Tharp scored from third on a double-play off the bat of catcher Ka’iana Eldredge to cut the deficit to 6-2.
KU issued a final challenge in the ninth inning plating a run on a bases loaded walk to cut the margin to 6-3. However, junior righty Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill.) recorded the final out of the night to earn his 15th save of the season and the 31st of his collegiate career increasing his school record total.
Senior righty Frank Duncan went the distance on the mound for Kansas allowing four earned runs and six total runs on 11 hits in a nine-inning complete game loss to drop 6-4 overall.