Feb. 18, 2012
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The No. 15 Louisville baseball team used solid pitching and timely hitting to earn a 4-3 victory over Illinois on Saturday at Al Lang Stadium during day two of the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge.
The Cardinals improved to 1-1 overall and will conclude the season-opening weekend against Michigan State on Sunday at 10 a.m., ET at Walter Fuller Complex in St. Petersburg. Illinois dropped to 0-2 overall and will conclude the event against St. John's on Sunday.
On the mound, sophomore right-hander Jeff Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) pitched a career-long 6.0+ innings allowing three runs on three hits with a career-best eight strikeouts to earn the victory. After a scoreless relief outing from senior righty Derek Self (Cave City, Ky./Caverna HS), junior right-hander Matt Koch (Cherokee, Iowa/Washington HS) pitched a perfect ninth inning with one strikeout to earn his first career collegiate save.
At the plate, sophomore outfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) was 3-for-5 with two stolen bases, an RBI and a run scored. Making his first career start, freshman designated hitter Mason Snyder (Ottawa, Ill./Marquette Academy) had two doubles, one RBI and one run scored, while sophomore outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
With Thompson in command on the mound and facing the minimum through the first four innings, Louisville moved into the lead in the fifth inning with one run on one hit against Illinois starter Rob McDonnell. Snyder started the inning with a walk and after moving to second on sacrifice bunt by sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS), scored on an RBI single to center by Engel for the 1-0 lead.
An inning later, the Cardinals pushed their advantage to 2-0 as Sturgeon singled to left field with two outs and scored moments later on an RBI double down the left field. The scoring continued in the seventh inning when Engel singled, moved to second on an Illinois error, advanced to third with a stolen base and scored on an RBI single to right by sophomore outfielder Jeff Gardner
. Later in the frame, Louisville plated its final run of the night when pinch hitter Ty Young
(Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) coaxed a bases loaded RBI walk to score junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak
(Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC).
The Illini battled back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull within a run. The scoring included an RBI single by outfielder Willie Argo, a run-scoring double-play off the bat of Jordan Parr and an RBI single to left by outfielder Davis Hendrickson. However, Illinois never threatened again as Self and Koch combined to retire the final six batters of the game in order to preserve the victory.
Following Saturday's game against Illinois, Louisville will conclude the weekend on Sunday at 10 a.m., against Michigan State at Walter Fuller Complex in St. Petersburg. The Cardinals' 2012 home-opener is scheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m., ET at Jim Patterson Stadium against Eastern Kentucky.
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Louisville Post-Game Notes Cardinals improved to 7-1 all-time in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge.
U of L trails the all-time series with Illinois 4-3, but the Cardinals have won two straight against the Illini.
Louisville 25-5 against Big Ten competition since head coach Dan McDonnell was hired prior to the 2007 season.
Jeff Thompson surpassed his previous career-long outing of 5.1 innings against Western Kentucky on March 29, 2011 and his previous career-high strikeout total of seven in the same game against the Hilltoppers.
Making his first career start, Mason Snyder doubled down the left field line in his first career at-bat as a Cardinal in the third inning on Saturday.
Cole Sturgeon had two hits in each of the Cardinals' first two games of 2012.
The trio of Sturgeon, Stewart Ijames and Jeff Gardner have hit safely in each of the Cardinals' first two games this season.
With one day of competition left, the BIG EAST holds an 11-9 lead in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge. The BIG EAST is looking for its third straight Challenge title.