Behind a hot start from their bats, Louisville overcame a late game rally and took down Kentucky, 5-3 in this season’s first edition of the Battle of the Bluegrass.
Louisville got off to a quick start to the game, when they made the Cats pay dearly on a 2-out fielding error by third baseman Tyler Marshall in the first inning. The error got shortstop Devin Hairston on base, then two-way star Brendan McKay proceeded to single to left field, and Drew Ellis then knocked in a 2 RBI double to put the Cards up 2-0 after 1 inning.
The Cards picked right back up where they left off in the second inning, where they used incredible plate discipline to get three straight 2-out walks by Ryan Summers, Josh Stowers and Colby Fitch to load the bases. Defensive star Devin Hairston took advantage of the golden opportunity to show off his offensive prowess and drove in two runs off a ground rule double to put Louisville up 4-0 by the end of the second inning.
While the bats were alive early, it wouldn’t exactly be the smoothest of starts on the mound for the Cards. Starting pitcher Shane Hummel gave up 4 hits in three innings, as well as giving up 1 and a hit-by-pitch with no outs in the third. This forced skipper Dan McDonnell to go to bullpen early and bring in reliever Adam Elliott, where he was able to finish the inning without surrendering a run.
A key to Louisville’s success has been the ability to take the opposing starting pitcher out of the game early and force the opposition to have to rely on their bullpen, and the third inning was no exception. A bases loaded hit-by-pitch by Josh Stowers with two outs would be the end of the day for UK’s starting pitcher Zack Thompson, and reliever Brad Schaenzer would be forced to finish the inning.
After the third inning, the game would evolve into a bullpen chess match between the two managers. For UK, Schaenzer would pitch through the fifth inning, with Austin Keen pitching the sixth, Colton Cleary pitching the seventh, and Chris Machamer pitching the eighth. The sixth inning also saw Louisville going back to the bullpen after 3 solid innings from Adam Wolf, with Michael McAvene entering in the sixth. However, after 0.1 innings of work, Jake Sparger would relieve him and he would finish the sixth and pitch the seventh. Down the stretch, Adam Wolf would pitch the eight and Rabon Martin would Be entered into the ninth.
However, after loading the bases in the ninth inning with 1 out, Martin would be relieved by closing pitcher Lincoln Henzman. After Zach Reks hit a 2-out, 2 RBI single off of Henzman to bring the game within 2 runs, he was caught stealing to end the game.
Louisville’s offense was powered by big days at the plate by Devin Hairston (3-4, 2RBI) and Drew Ellis (2-3, 2RBI), as well as 10 strikeouts by 7 different pitchers. The Cards move to 25-3 on the season, and will face a three game series with Wake Forest this weekend at Jim Patterson Stadium.