With a record crowd for the second straight day in a row and a trip to the College World Series on the line, the Cardinal Nine handled the pressure with ease and defeated archrival Kentucky for the Super Regional sweep, 6-2 and punched their ticket to Omaha.
After finally breaking out of his postseason slump in game 1 of the Louisville Super Regional, Drew Ellis got back to his All-American form in game 2. He hit his 19th and 20th home runs of the season for his 60th and 61st RBIs of the season, one of which was a no-doubter to deep left-center field that bounced off the light post. Colby Fitch also broke out of his postseason slump, batting 3-5 after going 1-16 (.063) in NCAA Championship play. Following Ellis and Fitch’s footsteps, shortstop Devin Hairston would also collect three hits on the day, batting 3-4.
In what was billed as a pitcher’s duel on paper with two-way superstar Brendan McKay (2.31 ERA, 9-3) and UK ace Sean Hjelle (3.75, 11-3) on the mound, Hjelle had trouble holding up his end of the duel. He would get an early exit in the sixth inning after giving up a second home run to Drew Ellis and a walk to Devin Hairston, only for reliever Zach Pop to immediately give up a first pitch RBI triple to Josh Stowers. Pop would log 0.0 innings of work before he too would get yanked and reliever Logan Salow would finish the 6th.
Even though McKay did manage to give up 8 hits in the game, he only gave up 2 earned runs and struck out 9 batters. He would also become Louisville’s all-time strikeout leader with 385 and would also set the single-season strikeout record with 140, passing Kyle Funkhouser’s 376 strikeouts and Rod Biehl’s 136 strikeouts (1991) respectively. His 6.2 innings of work would also give him sole possession of 2nd on the all-time innings pitched list with 310.1, trailing only Kyle Funkhouser’s 380.2 innings pitched.
While Louisville held the lead for the majority of the game, the tension was thick throughout the middle innings, with both teams getting multiple batters on base. This included a pair of RBI sacrifice flies by Devin Mann and UK’s Marcus Carson, as well as Brendan McKay’s first career balk in the bottom of the sixth to put two runners in scoring position, which prompted Sam Bordner’s entry into the game. The tension reached its peak when Sam Bordner finally got the final strike of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and clinging to a 2 run lead.
Once Louisville’s bats forced Kentucky to make it a bullpen game, the Cards took advantage of the opportunity to drive in some insurance runs in the late innings. A Tyler Fitzgerald walk followed by an RBI single and RBI double by both Logan Taylor and Colby Fitch would prompt UK to bring in Chris Machamer, their fourth pitcher of the game. Kentucky would continue to dive into the bullpen following Machamer’s lackluster performance, and insert Zeke Lewis to start the ninth.
The bullpen game would not be enough for Kentucky though, as a great catch by Logan Taylor at the center field wall would help Sam Bordner shut the door on the Wildcats, and help the Cards clinch their fourth trip to the College World Series.
— Louisville Baseball (@UofLBaseball) June 10, 2017