March 24, 2012
Box Score |
Recap by Adam Pruiett, UofLsports.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville baseball team's second game against BIG EAST rival Cincinnati changed course. A contest that showcased the Cardinals' prolific offense early became all about their pitching late.
Stewart Ijames accentuated a familiar big first inning with a two-run homer, Jeff Thompson struck out a career-high 11 batters, and Dace Kime and Derek Self combined for clutch relief work in a 5-4 victory over the Bearcats on Saturday at Jim Patterson Stadium.
No. 21 Louisville (17-6, 2-0 BIG EAST) preceded the game by closing out a 10-2 win over Cincinnati (8-13, 0-2) that began Friday but was postponed in the seventh inning until Saturday due to severe thunderstorms. The Cardinals have now rattled off six straight wins while the Bearcats have lost seven in a row.
Louisville's latest victory appeared in hand after the Cardinals took a 5-1 lead after three innings, and Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) mowed down the Bearcats with nine straight strikes to strike out the side in the fifth. It was the first time such an occurrence has happened for the Cardinals since Grant Williams did it in 2002. However, Cincinnati rallied back to within 5-4 in the seventh by plating three runs on an RBI single by centerfielder Jake Proctor and a two-run single by third baseman Joey Bielek.
With the tying run on first, sophomore right-hander Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS) relieved Thompson and halted the rally by striking out catcher Jake Saylor. Kime then got two quick outs in the eighth before designated hitter T.J. Jones singled. Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell signaled for the entrance of closer Derek Self (Cave City, Ky./Caverna HS), and the senior right-hander recorded the last out by inducing a fly out by shortstop Matt Williams.
Cincinnati had a favorable start to the ninth when second baseman Ryan Quinn led off with a walk. Self hunkered down, though, and sealed his team-leading sixth save by getting a fielder's choice ground out, a fly out and a force out on a grounder to junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC).
Continuing its pattern of scoring in the first inning, Louisville plated three runs with a combination of small ball and the long ball. Sophomore centerfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) led off against Cincinnati starter Zach Morris with a walk, advanced to second on a balk, moved to third on a ground out to first base by Ratajczak and scored on a single by sophomore designated hitter Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy HS). Ijames followed by crushing a two-run shot to right field for his eighth home run of the season and a 3-0 lead.
When Gardner plated Engel, Louisville scored at least one run in the first inning for the 10th straight game. The three runs boosted the Cardinals' advantage over their opponents in the opening frame this season to 45-4.
Freshman shortstop Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) ultimately provided the difference in scoring when he punched a two-out, two-run single to right in the third inning for a 5-1 lead. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Lucas has hit safely in eight consecutive games.
Engel increased his hitting streak to 12 games when he led off the third with a bunt single. Ratajczak boosted his streak of consecutive games with a hit to 14 when he lined a single to center in the seventh. Engel, Ratajczak, Gardner, Ijames and Lucas accounted for Louisville's five hits. Ijames had back-to-back diving catches in right field in the sixth inning.
Thompson (5-0) remained undefeated after allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. His 11 strikeouts bested his previous career high of eight, and the sophomore right-hander tallied at least one in every inning. He fanned three in the fifth, two apiece in the first and fourth, and one each in the second and sixth.
Morris (1-2) allowed five earned runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts in six innings. Jason Pascuzzi pitched two innings of scoreless relief. Bielek was 2-for-5 with two RBI while five other Bearcats had one hit apiece.
Louisville and Cincinnati will meet at 1 p.m., ET on Sunday in the series finale at Jim Patterson Stadium.
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