Feb. 19, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Behind home runs from junior shortstop Zach Lucas and senior catcher Shane Crain, the seventh-ranked Louisville baseball team made its home debut with a 13-1 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Lucas (Louisville, Ky.) finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a career best four RBI and his second career home run, while Crain (Lexington, Ky.) knocked in a career best three runs with his second career homer. Senior third baseman Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind.) added two hits, two RBI and scored once while senior outfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky.) was 2-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored.
On the mound, freshman righty Zack Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill.) made his collegiate debut pitching two scoreless innings of relief without allowing a hit to earn the victory. He followed freshman righty Jake Sparger (Elizabethtown, Ky.), who struck out a career best four while allowing just one run on four hits in four innings in his first ever collegiate start. Redshirt freshman lefty Robert Strader (Louisville, Ky.) made his debut with a shutout inning of relief and junior righty Brandon Alphin (Mt. Washington, Ky.) added a scoreless inning of work before junior righty Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill.) worked a perfect ninth inning with three strikeouts to end the game.
"It was good to see Zack Burdi run out there and he's come a long way, even since he got here in the fall," said Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell. "We put together those two big innings with the crooked numbers and we had those home runs. We had a lot of good at-bats and it was a pretty complete game with some great plays in the field."
Offensively, Louisville (3-1) finished with season-highs in runs and hits (12) while also compiling its two highest scoring innings in 2014 with the six-run third inning and the five-run sixth frame. The five Cardinals' pitchers combined to limit EKU (1-3) to only four hits, including just two in the final eight innings.
The Colonels managed to score first on Wednesday's plating in a run in the opening frame on a RBI groundout by designated hitter Bryan Soloman. However, it would be the only lead of the day for the road squad after Louisville moved ahead for good in the second inning when Chittenden delivered a two-run single through the left side off EKU starter Matt Lynch to plate sophomore first baseman Danny Rosenbaum (Lafayette Hill, Pa.) and Lucas.
An inning later, the Cardinals erupted for six runs on four hits to end any hopes of a comeback by the Colonels. The scoring started with a RBI single by Gardner and was followed by a RBI sac fly from Lucas and a RBI double by junior outfielder Mike White (East Orange, N.J.). Crain closed the scoring by sending a 2-2 pitch from EKU reliever Brian Mroz over the left field wall for the 8-1 advantage.
Following a pair of scoreless frames, Louisville plated five more runs in the sixth inning with freshman pinch hitter Nick Solak (Woodridge, Ill.) starting the scoring and driving in his first career run with a RBI groundout. After a RBI single by junior second baseman Grant Kay (Omaha, Neb.), Lucas finished off the inning by powering a 3-2 offering from reliever Logan Hershenow over the wall in left field for the final 13-1 margin.
Lynch took the loss and dropped to 0-1 on the season after allowing five runs, all earned, on five hits with three walks in 2.0+ innings. Third baseman Doug Teegarden finished with two of the Colonels' four hits.
Up next, Louisville continues its 17-game homestand with a weekend visit from Mid-American Conference foe Western Michigan. The Cardinals and Broncos are scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m., ET, Saturday at 1 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.
Louisville Postgame Notes
- Louisville has won 13 of the last 14 with EKU and owns a 62-48-1 lead in the all-time series, which dates back to 1927.
- With Wednesday's win, the Cardinals improved to 7-2 in home-openers at Jim Patterson Stadium and 39-13 in home-openers since the start of the 1963 season.
- The Cardinals' six-run third inning was their highest scoring inning of the season and the most runs in a single frame since plating six runs in the eighth inning of their 12-3 win over Oklahoma State in the NCAA Regional on June 2, 2013.
- Senior Jeff Gardner has hit safely in all four games this season, including two hits in three of those outings.
- Junior Grant Kay has also hit safely in all four games to open the season with two of those being multi-hit performances.
- Wednesday marked the first time this season Louisville has scored five or more runs in an inning doing twice in the win over EKU. Last season, the Cardinals scored five or more runs in an inning 16 times.
- The Cardinals have allowed two earned runs or fewer in back-to-back games, a feat they accomplished 36 times in 65 games last season.