Junior 2B Nick Ratajczak
March 11, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The 14th-ranked Louisville baseball team suffered a 9-4 loss to No. 29 East Carolina during the final day of the DRASH Alabama Classic on Sunday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
With their second straight loss, the Cardinals dropped to 10-5 overall, while the Pirates improved to 11-3 on the season after winning all three of their games at the Alabama Classic.
Unearned runs were the difference in Sunday's contest as two Louisville errors led to five unearned runs for East Carolina, including all four runs in a pivotal second inning that gave the Pirates the lead for good. After the Cardinals gained an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI groundout by freshman infielder Mason Snyder (Ottawa, Ill./Marquette Academy) to score sophomore outfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS), the Pirates took advantage of a fielding error by the Cardinals in the second inning to take a 4-1 advantage.
Following back-to-back groundouts to start the inning, catcher Zach Wright reached base when his groundball hit off the glove of Cards' junior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS). East Carolina then followed the miscue with four straight singles to score four runs against Louisville senior righty Travis Tingle (Louisville, Ky./Cleveland State CC). Tingle took the loss for the Cardinals to fall to 2-1 on the season after allowing just one earned run and five total runs on seven hits with three strikeouts in four innings pitched.
An inning later, the Cardinals cut the deficit to 4-2 as junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) reached base with a one-out triple, his first career triple as a Cardinal, and then scored on an RBI single up the middle by sophomore designated hitter Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy). However, ECU answered with a run in the top of the fourth as leftfielder Bryan Bass connected for an RBI double down the left field line to score outfielder Ben Fultz for a 5-2 lead.
However, that was as close as Louisville would get as East Carolina turned to right-handed reliever Jeff Hoffman, who followed Cotton with four perfect innings of relief to earn his first save of the season. Cotton earned the win to improve to 3-0 overall despite allowing four runs on six hits with five strikeouts and five walks in five innings.
Clinging to the one-run lead, the Pirates put the game out of reach down the stretch scoring two runs in the eighth inning off sophomore righty reliever Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS) and two more in the ninth off senior righty Derek Self (Cave City, Ky./Caverna HS). Prior to the eighth, Green pitched three scoreless innings of relief to keep the Cardinals close. The two runs in the ninth were the first allowed this season by Self, whose season-opening scoreless streak was halted at 10.2 innings.
Offensively, no Louisville player had more than one hit or more than one error in the loss. Ratajczak did score twice while reaching base three times with a triple and two walks. Ijames finished 0-for-2 with two walks to end his season-high 11-game hitting streak.
Up next, Louisville will return home to begin a nine-game homestand at Jim Patterson Stadium with a pair of mid-week games against Top 25 foe Ole Miss. The Cardinals and Rebels will open the week on Tuesday at 6 p.m., ET, before concluding the two-game set on Wednesday at noon.