In one of the most anticipated days in Louisville baseball history after the Ali funeral service on Friday, Louisville could not be blessed. Untimely hits allowed and multiple runners left on base doomed the Cardinals (50-13), resulting in a 4-2 win for UC-Santa Barbara.
The loss for Louisville is only the Cardinals’ second at home all-season, after going 36-1 prior to today’s loss. The other loss was 6-3 against Virginia on March 25th, with third-round pick Connor Jones pitching for the Cavaliers.
Austin Bush, the Nashville Regional Most Outstanding Player, hit a home run to center in the fourth to give the Gauchos a 2-1 lead. Kyle Plantier followed that up with an RBI double that drove in JJ Muno and extended the lead to 3-1. Muno would later add an RBI single in the fifth to push the Gauchos lead to 4-1, and effectively seal the game at that point.
Shane Bieber, who was drafted in the fourth round to the Cleveland Indians yesterday, pitched seven innings and only two allowed runs on eight hits, with seven strikeouts to add. Dan McDonnell noted in the post-game press conference that Bieber was “clearly one of the best pitchers they faced,” a glowing endorsement given the caliber of pitchers Louisville has faced this season.
McKay allowed three runs on nine hits in eight innings, but earned nine strikeouts. This was also McKay’s first loss as a pitcher at Jim Patterson Stadium, after going 16-0 prior to today’s game. McKay also could not get anything going at the plate, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Corey Ray did not have a successful day at the plate either, going 0-for-4 in the game. Ray is 1-for-12 in his last three games, after going 3-for-5 in a win against Western Michigan last Friday.
Though the Cardinals had eight hits, they only converted two runs, both via Blake Tiberi. Tiberi’s home run in the second inning gave the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead. He becomes one of three Cardinals with double-digit dingers out of the park, joining Corey Ray (15) and Danny Rosenbaum (10). UCSB rebounded in the next frame with an RBI double from Clay Fisher, tying the game at 1-1. Tiberi also added an RBI single that scored Devin Hairston, cutting a Gauchos lead to 4-2.
The Cardinals will look to rebound in a must-win game 2 tomorrow at noon. McDonnell announced that ACC Pitcher of the Year Drew Harrington will start tomorrow. If the Cardinals win, there will be a third game on Monday at a time later to be determined.
When asked about the pressure of facing a must-win game two, McDonnell said, “We’ve lost game one before, it’s not the end of the world. We just got to do our best and compete tomorrow.”