Sophomore Jeff Gardner
March 3, 2012
By Adam Pruiett, UofLsports.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Unfortunately for the Louisville baseball team, Pepperdine's push to crack the Top 25 rankings got off to a promising start Saturday at Jim Patterson Stadium.
In the first game of a doubleheader, Joe Sever smacked a two-run home run that proved to be the difference, and Pepperdine's pitchers did a masterful job of escaping trouble in the late innings of a 3-2 victory over the No. 14 Cardinals.
The opening contest of the three-game series was pushed back to Saturday after severe weather postponed it Friday. Unranked Pepperdine (8-2) notched its fourth victory this season over a ranked club, also defeating No. 16 Oklahoma twice and No. 21 USC. Louisville (6-3) dropped its second game in a row after winning six straight.
After losing twice all of 2011 in going 10-2, Louisville junior right-hander Justin Amlung (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier HS) fell to 1-2 this season after enduring the hard-luck loss. Amlung's strong outing consisted of seven innings pitched, three runs, six strikeouts and two walks. He was perfect through three innings.
Louisville outhit Pepperdine 7-3, but the Waves delivered the biggest blow when Sever went deep in the sixth inning. The Waves were clinging to a one-run lead when he stepped to the plate with one out after Zach Vincej walked. Facing Amlung, Cooper lined a two-run homer over the left field fence.
Louisville responded with two runs in the bottom half, but the Cardinals missed a chance to do even more damage. Sophomore outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) led off with a single to center off starting pitcher Jon Mascot, advanced to second on sophomore centerfielder Adam Engel's (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) walk and third after tagging up on junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak's (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) deep fly ball to left center. After Engel stole second, sophomore designated hitter Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy HS) plated two runs with a single up the middle.
The Cardinals kept attacking when senior first baseman Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) slapped a hit-and-run single, and sophomore shortstop Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) walked to load the bases. More runs would elude Louisville, though, as Moscot (2-1) recorded a strikeout and ground out to end the rally and maintain a 3-2 lead.
With such fine pitching from both teams, mistakes proved especially costly. Louisville had two runners picked off, including one at second base with one out in the eighth. Pinch hitter Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) followed by clubbing a double to left that likely would have scored the tying run. Reliever Michael Swanner got out of the inning unscathed.
Aaron Brown also escaped trouble in the ninth. After Swanner walked sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) to lead off the inning and Sturgeon moved Gibson into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, Brown jogged in front from right field and preserved the victory by inducing a ground out and notching a strikeout for his third save of the season.
Engel went 2-for-4 with a walk, stolen base and run scored for Louisville. Gardner was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs. Sophomore right-hander Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS) threw two effective innings of relief, striking out three and allowing no runs.
Sever had two of Pepperdine's three hits. Sever's two-run shot against Louisville followed his grand slam in a 7-2 win over USC.