April 3, 2012
Box Score |
Recap by Adam Pruiett, UofLsports.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Everything the Louisville baseball team was hitting on the nose early Tuesday night found the glove of a Western Kentucky player. Stewart Ijames took care of that problem by putting the ball out of reach of everybody but the train conductor.
In the fourth inning, Ijames picked up Louisville's first hit when he crushed a two-run homer, and the big blow lifted the curse off the No. 18 Cardinals' offense and propelled them to a 9-2 victory over the Hilltoppers at a crowded Jim Patterson Stadium on Cancer Awareness Night at the ballpark. All nine of Louisville's runs came with two outs, the last three via a three-run blast by Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS), and the Cardinals got dominant pitching from four hurlers.
At the outset, it didn't look like it would be Louisville's day. Junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) lined out to right and center, respectively, in his first two at-bats, sophomore third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) lined out to right, and Western Kentucky third baseman Casey Dykes made a nice backhanded stab on a hard grounder by freshman shortstop Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS).
Louisville's fortunes changed after Dykes' noteworthy play in the fourth inning. With sophomore centerfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) on second and two outs, Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) strolled to the plate. Western Kentucky starter Austin Clay hadn't allowed a hit to that point, facing the minimum over the first three innings, when he started Ijames off with a curveball. Louisville's first baseman was ready for the pitch, smashing a drive that soared over the right field fence toward the train that was rolling by beyond the stadium.
Ijames' ninth home run tied the game at 2-2 for Louisville (21-8) and untracked the offense, which piled up four runs on five hits the next inning against the Hilltoppers (12-17). Ijames was at the center of the outburst, lacing a two-run single up the middle. Engel preceded Ijames' hit with an RBI single, and Young followed Ijames by knocking in a run with a single. All four runs came with two outs and boosted the lead to 6-2.
The Cardinals tacked on three more runs with two outs in the eighth on Wasserman's fifth home run. The junior designated hitter cranked his second three-run shot in four games when he launched a drive over the wall in right center. The inning had been extended when Western Kentucky committed an error.
After a shaky first inning in which he allowed two runs on three hits, freshman right-hander Jared Ruxer (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) settled down and bumped his record to 4-0 after striking out two while allowing three hits and one earned run in 5.1 innings.
Louisville's bullpen continued its recent stretch of brilliance as sophomore left-hander Cody Ege (Cherokee, Iowa/Cherokee Washington HS), sophomore right-hander Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS) and sophomore left-hander Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless relief. The trio didn't allow a hit and the Hilltoppers recorded a single baserunner over the last five innings. The Cardinals sat down 11 straight to close the game and held Western Kentucky hitless after the first inning.
Ijames finished 2-for-4 and his four RBI upped his team-best total to 35. Wasserman's five home runs have come in only 56 at-bats. Engel had a hit, RBI, scored twice and stole his 21st base. Ratajczak, Young, sophomore Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) and junior outfielder Matt Helms (Eufaula, Okla./Seminole State CC) had one hit apiece.
Rightfielder Ryan Hutchison had an RBI single for Western Kentucky. Clay (3-4) allowed five earned runs on four hits in 4.2 innings.
Louisville picks BIG EAST Conference play back up when the Cardinals visit Georgetown for a three-game series starting at 3 p.m., ET on Thursday and continuing at 4 p.m. on Friday and at noon on Saturday.
Fans can follow Louisville baseball on Twitter at http://twitter.com/uoflbaseball and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ulbaseball.