Following the disappointing end to the regular season and ACC Baseball Tournament, the Louisville Cardinals opened up their 2017 postseason back on track with a win against the Big South champion Radford Highlanders, defeating them 11-6.
Breaking the normal pitching rotation, head coach Dan McDonnell opted to go down to his two-spot in the rotation, and put in Kade McClure to start on the mound for the Cards. Doing so would save two-way superstar Brendan McKay for Saturday’s game against the Oklahoma Sooners, who took down the Big East champion Xavier Musketeers in Game 1 of the Louisville Regional.
With McClure on the mound, the usual designated hitter in a non-pitching situation Brendan McKay would actually assume duties over at first base against the Highlanders. Batting .227 on the season with an OPS of .556, Jake Snider would be the one to assume the role of designated hitter. After getting roughed up by a collision in a practice scrimmage during the days leading up to the ACC Baseball Tournament, Colby Fitch made his return to the lineup. Colin Lyman also made his return, after leaving in the first inning against Florida State when he sustained a wrist injury.
McClure got a fast start through the early innings, striking out 4 batters in the first 3 innings, as well as all three batters faced in the third. Early on, his fastball was the order of the day for opposing batters, with his 91-92 mph velocity striking out all of his first four victims.
Going into the bottom of the third, Louisville would be the first team to draw blood in the game, with Devin Mann poking a ball over the second baseman’s head to allow leadoff man Logan Taylor to score from third. But the Cards were’t done yet. With runners on the corners after a Brendan McKay single, a throwing error from the catcher trying to throw out McKay stealing second would send Mann home as well. A Drew Ellis sacrifice fly would plate McKay, and a Josh Stowers double with Devin Hairston and Colin Lyman in scoring position would extend the lead to 5-0 and force Radford to go to the bullpen. However, even a new pitcher wouldn’t help Radford stop the bleeding, as Jake Snider would prove his worth in the lineup by sending Josh Stowers home on a single to make it 6-0 by the end of the third inning.
Although Kade McClure was great through three innings, he fell off, and fell off quickly in the fourth inning. He would lead off the inning by giving up a double, followed by a walk and a hit by pitch to load the bases. Sophomore outfielder Adam Whitacre, who only managed to hit 2 home runs all season for Radford and whose career high for RBIs in a game was also 2, made the best of his situation and jacked a grand slam over the right field wall to close the gap to 2 runs.
Adam Whitacre would continue to be Kade McClure’s Achilles’ heel in the sixth inning. Facing two outs with two men on base, Whitacre flared a ball down the first base for a triple that sent both men on base home. After giving up 6 earned runs, all of whom to Whitacre, head coach Dan McDonnell would be forced to make the call to the bullpen and insert Sam Bordner into the game to finish out the inning.
As Pat Rumoro did in the ACC Tournament against Florida State, Jake Snider took his starting opportunity to prove to everyone why he belongs in the lineup. After Josh Stowers stole his 20th base of the season, Jake Snider launched his first career home run far enough that it bounced off the scoreboard. McKay would also drive in a run off a groundout to extend the Cards lead to 9-6 after 6 innings.
Continuing on his hot streak to the latter half of the season, Josh Stowers would drive in Louisville’s 10th run on his 3rd hit of the game. Not only that, but he would also steal third and score Louisville’s 11th run of the game after the throw to third base sailed over the third baseman’s head. His performance at the plate would push his batting average to .311, making him the fourth Louisville batter to have over a .300 batting average for the season.
Coming out of the bullpen, Sam Border provides the Cards with some excellent pitching. He was able to strike out 6 batters and gave up no hits or walks through 3.1 inning pitched. Since he entered the game while game was tied and did not allow the Cards to fall behind, it would be him instead of McClure getting the decision, and would move to 2-0 on the year.
Drew Ellis and Colby Fitch were the only starters not to collect a hit, while Devin Mann (3-5, 1 RBI), Colin Lyman (2-4), Josh Stowers (3-3, 3 RBI) and Jake Snider (2-3, 3 RBI) all had multi hit games.
— Louisville Baseball (@UofLBaseball) June 3, 2017