March 16, 2012
Box Score |
Recap by Adam Pruiett, UofLsports.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the most tension-filled situation of the night, with the Louisville offense desperately needing to get untracked and with Ball State hanging tight behind ace Cal Bowling, Nick Ratajczak stepped to the plate. There was no other name the Cardinals would have preferred to have called.
Continuing his torrid hitting pace, Louisville's junior second baseman slapped a two-out, bases-clearing double that broke a tie in the seventh inning and backed a sterling pitching performance from Justin Amlung in a 9-4 victory Friday at Jim Patterson Stadium that marked the opener of a three-game series.
Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) boosted his hitting streak to nine games with his 3-for-4 outing. It was the fourth time during his streak that he collected three hits or more. He singled in his first two plate appearances and picked up the game-breaking double in his last at-bat against Bowling (2-1), who had a 2.61 ERA and no losses in his four previous starts.
By the seventh inning, No. 21 Louisville (12-6) was in dire need of a jolt after squandering several scoring opportunities early against Ball State (3-10). The score was tied 1-1 when freshman shortstop Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) blasted a triple to right center leading off, but he was tagged out at home on a fielder's choice to second base off the bat of junior designated hitter Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS). After the Cardinals loaded the bases on an infield single by sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) and a walk by sophomore outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS), freshman pinch runner Sutton Whiting (Louisville, Ky./Ballard HS) attempted to score on a pitch in the dirt that skipped away from Ball State catcher Kevin Franchetti, but Franchetti recovered in time to flip the ball to Bowling for the second out.
Ratajczak entered the batter's box with the bases loaded after sophomore centerfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) walked. Ratajczak punched a line drive past the diving lunge of third baseman Elbert Devarie. All three Cardinals scored and Ratajczak wound up on third when leftfielder Dominick Catanzarite misplayed the ball in the corner. The Cardinals weren't done, as sophomore leftfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy HS) hammered an RBI double off newly inserted pitcher Miles Moeller for a 5-1 lead.
Amlung (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier HS) was perfect through three innings, not allowing a base runner or hit until the fourth. The junior right-hander struck out a career-high nine batters and matched a season high with 7.2 innings pitched. Amlung (3-2) gave up a double to Cody Campbell leading off the seventh, but Campbell was stranded at third after Amlung recorded back-to-back strikeouts to escape unscathed.
Louisville put the game out of reach with four runs in the eighth. Lucas barely missed a home run, doubling off the left center wall after sophomore third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) singled. Freshman pinch hitter Mason Snyder (Ottawa, Ill./Marquette Academy HS) walked to load the bases, and Gibson greeted reliever Tyler Jordan with a two-run single to left. Sturgeon followed with a sacrifice fly.
Lucas was 2-for-3 with a triple and a double. Gibson went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs while Engel, Gardner, Young and Wasserman chipped in one hit apiece. Campbell, Catanzarite and Wes Winkle each had two hits for Ball State.
Bowling pitched 6.2 innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking four. Junior right-hander Matt Koch (Cherokee, Iowa/Cherokee Washington HS) notched his fourth save for the Cardinals after allowing three hits and one earned run while striking out one in 1.1 innings.
Louisville will host Ball State at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
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