Louisville baseball continues to go red-hot to start 2017, opening the season with ten straight wins after a sweep against Morehead State and Eastern Michigan.
For more stats from the Morehead State game, be sure to check out Matt’s recap from Wednesday.
Louisville Floors EMU 13-0 to go 9-0
The Cardinals began the series with a 13-0 shutout of Eastern Michigan, moving to 9-0 in the process.
The shutout marked the fourth time this season Louisville has done so. It is also the sixth time U of L has scored 10+ runs in their first nine games, and the second time where U of L scored 10+ while pitching a shutout. With four shutouts in their first 11 games, U of L is currently on pace to pass their record of 11 shutouts from last year.
Freshman Tyler Fitzgerald, who hit out of the nine-hole due to Brendan McKay’s absence, led the Cardinals with a 3-of-4 performance at the plate and an RBI double in the sixth inning. Devin Mann rebounded from a slow start to hit 2-of-3 at the plate. Colin Lyman’s RBI single in the seventh inning pushed the lead to 12-0. Drew Ellis also nailed 3-of-4 at the plate with two doubles, one of which had an RBI in the fifth that scored Mann.
Nick Bennett, who got the Friday start in replacement of Brendan McKay, finished the day with six shutout innings of work. The freshman struck out seven and allowed EMU’s only hit during the second inning, in his first career start. McKay, who usually gets the Friday start, sat out the game due to a minor abdominal strain.
Hairston Sacrifice Helps Louisville Escape Saturday
In a closer than expected fray with the Eagles, Louisville found themselves in a defensive struggle on Saturday. Hairston’s two RBIs in the sixth and 13th innings helped the Cards get to ten straight wins in a 3-2 slugfest.
Both teams started slow in the first three innings, but EMU’s Brennan Williams started in the third with an RBI single. Eastern Michigan would later score on an RBI fielder’s choice in the sixth, but nothing else after that. Kade McClure allowed the only runs in the game. Despite the lack of run support early, the win kept McClure’s unbeaten streak alive. McClure’s only loss in his collegiate career came on May 12, 2015 against Vanderbilt.
Relief pitching, however, was key to keeping the Cardinals in position to win in extra innings. Adam Wolf and Lincoln Henzman combined for six perfect innings of work in relief of McClure, while Riley Thompson got his first career win at the mound. Thompson earned the victory after shutting out the Eagles in the 13th inning.
While McClure finished the day with two runs on four hits, and seven strikeouts in six innings of work, a lack of run support almost resulted in the first loss of 2017 for the Cardinals. EMU pitcher Brad Allen allowed only two hits in the first six innings, before an RBI single from Hairston in the seventh inning put the Cards on the scoreboard. Drew Ellis came through with an RBI single in the ninth to tie the game, but Louisville failed to capitalize in a bases loaded situation to walk it off in regular innings.
In extra innings, Louisville came close with runners in scoring position in the tenth and 12th, but failed to score the walk-off run. After Thompson saved the Cardinals in the 13th, Hairston offered a sac fly to score Devin Mann’s penultimate run.
Louisville Finishes with Dramatic Sweep
After a 3-2 win on Saturday, U of L found themselves in another jam with the Eagles. But the Cardinals recovered and preserved what is now an 11-game winning streak, with an 8-7 victory on Sunday. The 11-0 start is the hottest for U of L since 2010, as the Cards are one of two remaining unbeaten teams in college baseball.
Sunday was led by Louisville’s early home runs. In his first start since missing Friday’s game with an abdominal strain, McKay returned to hit his fourth home run of the season in the fifth inning. Drew Ellis also sent one over the wall earlier in the second inning, making it his fourth of the season as well. Devin Mann would also hit a home run in the following inning, his first in 2017.
Eastern Michigan would score two runs on bases-loaded walks in the fourth, ending Michael McAvene’s day in the fourth inning. Rabon Martin would get the Cards out of the jam with a 5-2-3 double play, and a pop fly from Devin Hager to close the fourth. A pinch-hit two RBI double would close U of L’s lead to 6-4 in the sixth inning. Colby Fitch’s RBI double pushed the lead to 7-4, but three runs from the Eagles tied the game. Afterwards, an RBI flyout from Josh Stowers allowed Devin Hairston to score, giving the Cards the decisive run to end the seventh.
After a scoreless eighth, Sparger came in to relieve the final inning. Despite the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, the senior managed to navigate a shutout inning. Sparger earned his first career save with the performance, while Adam Elliot earned his first career win after pitching 1.1 innings without a hit or run.
Drew Ellis led all Louisville batters on Sunday, hitting 3-of-4 at the plate with two RBI. Devin Mann also batted 2-of-4 at the plate, and McKay also had 2-of-5 with a triple, in addition to home runs by both.