March 16, 2013
By Adam Pruiett, GoCards.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Pencil Jeff Thompson in once again for BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week consideration.
Just like his previous four starts, the junior right-hander displayed thorough command in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, boosting his record to 5-0 in the fourth-ranked Louisville baseball team's 7-0 victory over Xavier at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Louisville's sixth straight win was punctuated by the first career home run by senior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) as a Cardinal, a grand slam in a four-run eighth that broke open a competitive contest. With the victory, Louisville (15-2) clinched its fourth three-game series triumph in as many tries this season. The Cardinals were seeking their third sweep in the tail end of the doubleheader with the Musketeers (6-10).
On the heels of his second conference pitcher of the week honor, Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) tossed a career-best eight innings and ran his scoreless innings streak to 15, the second such string of 13-plus spotless frames for him in 2013. For the fourth time in his five starts, the 6-foot-6 hurler did not allow a run and lowered his ERA to a shrewd 0.55.
Thompson mixed veteran savvy with dominance in leading Louisville to its fourth shutout of the year. Xavier got the leadoff man on in three of the first four innings before Thompson walked off the mound unharmed. He was aided by junior catcher Shane Crain (Lexington, Ky./Wabash Valley CC) catching a base runner stealing in the second and a 6-4-3 double play in the fourth. Thompson retired nine straight hitters spanning the fourth through seventh innings and finished by setting down 14 of the last 16 Musketeers. He struck out four while allowing five hits and issuing one walk.
Louisville collected 13 hits, with senior outfielder Matt Helms (Eufaula, Okla./Seminole State CC) tying a career-best with three. Ratajczak was 2-for-5 with a career-high four RBI, while freshman designated hitter Danny Rosenbaum (Lafayette Hill, Pa./Plymouth Whitemarsh HS) and junior rightfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) chipped in two hits apiece.
Louisville scored once in the first when junior centerfielder Adam Engel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Loveland HS) led off against Xavier starter Alex Westrick by legging out an infield single, stole his team-best 22nd base, moved to third on Ratajczak's ground out to the right side and scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by junior third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep).
The Cardinals picked up an unearned run in the fourth when Crain walked and scored on back-to-back Xavier errors on misplayed ground balls. The first miscue came on second baseman Selby Chidemo with senior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) at the plate and the second, by first baseman Derek Hasenbeck, came with sophomore shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa./Louisville Ballard HS) at-bat and allowed Crain to score from second base.
After Sturgeon scored Rosenbaum with an RBI single in the seventh to put Louisville up 3-0, the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth on singles by Wasserman and Whiting and a walk to Engel. That set the stage for Ratajczak, who in his two seasons at Louisville hadn't yet homered despite smashing 16 round-trippers in his two campaigns at Gulf Coast
Community College. Ratajczak changed all that when he belted a 3-1 pitch from Xavier reliever Zach Johnson over the right field fence for a grand slam.
Sophomore left-hander Joe Filomeno (Cicero, Ill./St. Rita HS) struck out the side in the ninth while allowing one hit in sewing up the win. Westrick dropped to 1-3 after allowing three runs, including two earned, on eight hits in seven innings. Six different Musketeers accounted for the team's six hits.
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