Feb. 24, 2012
Box Score |
By Adam Pruiett, UofLsports.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It was unthinkable that Louisville pitcher Justin Amlung could match his entire loss total from 2011 in two appearances this season. On Friday at Jim Patterson Stadium, the junior right-hander threw as if the idea of a second straight defeat was indeed not a possibility.
Amlung (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier HS) showed the form that made him the BIG EAST's Preseason Pitcher of the Year, and his teammates backed him up with a five-run fourth inning as the No. 16 Cardinals secured a 7-4 victory over Oakland for their fourth consecutive win.
Amlung suffered two losses on the mound all of last season. He was in jeopardy of equaling that amount after taking the loss in Louisville's season-opening loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge. Things didn't look promising when Oakland leadoff hitter Tim Ryan singled up the middle to start the game.
But Amlung locked in from there. He retired the next 10 Grizzlies (0-2) and didn't allow another hit until the fifth inning, when Oakland plated two runs. By that point, Louisville (4-1) had built a comfortable advantage, and Amlung (1-1) notched his first win of the season after allowing two earned runs and four hits while striking out four and walking none in seven effective innings.
Louisville scored all the runs it would require with its five-run outburst in the fourth inning, although Oakland never let the Cardinals rest easy. The Grizzlies cut the Cardinals' lead to 6-4 in the eighth inning, but unyielding relief work by senior right-hander Derek Self (Cave City, Ky./Caverna HS) helped Louisville close out its fourth win in a row.
Every starter for the Cardinals carved out a hit with sophomore centerfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) and sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) leading the way with two hits each. Senior rightfielder Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) made sure every Louisville starter had a hit when he lined a single to center in the eighth inning, his third straight time on base after walking twice.
Oakland starter Jeff Gorecki (0-1) set Louisville down in order in each of the first three innings. At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, the senior left-hander was physically imposing, but he didn't boast an overpowering fastball, instead mixing speeds and location to keep the Cardinals off balance.
Not surprisingly, Engel triggered Louisville's offensive surge. After barely missing a sure double down the third base line - his screamer was called foul - Engel notched Louisville's first hit and first base runner when he lined a single to center leading off the fourth. Junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) followed by singling to right on an 0-2 count, and the Cardinals were finally in business.
Oakland would do its part to help Louisville's push. After sophomore shortstop Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) picked up an RBI on a fielder's choice and Ijames walked, sophomore third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) laced a hard ground ball to the left of Spencer Marentette. The Grizzlies second baseman dived to knock the ball down, however, it deflected away and rolled several feet to allow Chittenden to score.
Junior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) boosted Louisville's lead to 3-0 with an RBI single, and Young scored when Oakland rightfielder John Estes misplayed the hop on Wasserman's hit. Wasserman then scored for a 5-0 advantage when Gorecki dropped a toss from Aaron Cieslak while covering first on Gibson's infield single.
Marentette and Ryan both recorded RBI singles off Amlung in the fifth inning to cut Oakland's deficit to 5-2. The Grizzlies got within 6-4 in the eighth after the first four hitters reached base against Louisville reliever Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS).
Self entered and vanquished the rally, retiring the next three Grizzlies before working a scoreless ninth for his second save of the season. He leapt high to snag a hard bouncer off the bat of Jake Morton and threw to first for the final out.
Chittenden had an RBI single in the fifth inning for Louisville's sixth run, and Gibson added one of his own in the eighth to cap the Cardinals' scoring output.
The contest marked the second in a nine-game homestand for Louisville. The Cardinals will host Oakland at 1 p.m., ET Saturday and noon Sunday at Jim Patterson Stadium to close the weekend. Admission is free for the entire series against the Grizzlies.
Fans can follow Louisville baseball on Twitter at http://twitter.com/uoflbaseball and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ulbaseball.