Bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded. A chance to advance in the NCAA Tournament to the Super Regionals. A chance to redeem a past failure earlier in the weekend, as they had lost to Illinois State on Saturday.
That’s the situation Louisville faced as Alex Binelas walked up to the plate to try and deliver the game-winning hit. A base hit would bring a run home and give them the right to host a Super Regional next weekend at Jim Patterson Stadium. An out here would give Illinois State a chance in extra innings, and considering they had two runs in the ninth to tie the game, a good probability exists that the Redbirds would have capitalized on a newfound opportunity.
Binelas would capitalize on his chance, as he delivered a walk-off single to give Louisville (47-16) a 4-3 win over Illinois State (36-26), and advance to their sixth Super Regional in the last seven seasons.
Clutch hits. Huge strikeouts. WALK-OFF WINNER.
Relive yesterday's Regional clincher ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/rKi5V5niMh
— Louisville Baseball (@LouisvilleBSB) June 4, 2019
Louisville did jump on Illinois State early in the first inning, as Jake Snider delivered a short RBI single. Illinois State later tied it in the fourth inning on an RBI single from Joe Butler, and both teams found themselves in a gridlock.
For Louisville, it was a committee effort that led their pitching staff. Nick Bennett, who had come off a win while throwing five innings on Friday, started and delivered two shutout innings. Bryan Hoeing anchored Louisville out of the bullpen, striking out six Illinois State batters and allowing one run on one hit in five innings.
Illinois State saw its starter, Colton Johnson, throw a gem through the first six innings. But it would be the seventh and eighth innings where Louisville finally found its groove against him. After a two-out walk in the seventh inning, a pinch hitting Zach Britton came on to deliver an RBI single that put the Cardinals ahead 2-1.
Louisville’s defense continued to marvel in the eighth inning. Jared Poland made his first appearance on the mound since April 27th against Alabama A&M, and struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth inning. This came after freshman catcher Henry Davis had a nifty pickoff at second that kept a potential scoring run off the board for Illinois State.
Jake Snider came through once again for Louisville in the bottom of the eighth, driving an RBI double that scored another and pushed their lead to 3-1. Snider’s double ended up being retiring Johnson for the day, who finished with eight strikeouts, and two earned runs on six hits in 7.1 innings pitched. Jacob Gilmore retired the two Louisville batters he faced to close the eighth inning.
The ninth inning was a dramatic one for both teams. Illinois State was one out away from seeing their magical season end, but a misplayed ball into centerfield by Louisville’s Trey Leonard would bring in a run for Illinois State, cutting the lead to 3-2. Joe Butler’s RBI single tied the game in the ninth inning, blowing the save opportunity that Louisville’s Michael Kirian had. Kirian managed to strike out Jeremy Gaines to close the top of the ninth.
Louisville promptly loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, coming after Logan Wyatt was intentionally walked (his 68th walk of the season). Justin Lavey was out at home on Louisville’s first attempt to walk it off, but Alex Binelas brought in Trey Leonard with a walk-off RBI single to give the Cardinals a cathartic win after a lengthy weekend.
Jake Snider led the way for Louisville at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two doubles, recording his 15th double of the season. Snider was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the Louisville Regional, and joined eight other Cardinals on the All-Louisville Regional Team (Luke Smith, Zeke Pinkham, Justin Lavey, Tyler Fitzgerald, Alex Binelas, Snider, Drew Campbell, and Danny Oriente).
Alex Binelas was 1-for-5 in today’s final game of the Louisville Regional, but he delivered the walkoff hit that helps advance the Cardinals to the Super Regional round. Tyler Fitzgerald had two stolen bases to go with his 1-for-4 total at the plate.
Illinois State had four hits in the game, both coming from Derek Parola (2-for-3) and Joe Butler (2-for-4). Butler had all two of the team’s RBIs.
The Cardinals await the winner of the Greenville regional, which will have East Carolina and Campbell faceoff later tonight. Times and dates for Louisville’s Super Regional are yet to be determined.