April 20, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. - The 22nd-ranked Louisville baseball team concluded a drama-filled final two innings at USF on Friday night by scoring two runs in the ninth for a 6-5 comeback win in the BIG EAST Conference series-opener at USF Baseball Stadium.
With their first final at-bat win of the season, the Cardinals improved to 27-11 overall and 9-4 in BIG EAST action, while the Bulls dropped to 26-13 and 10-3 in league play. The series will continue on Saturday with a noon first pitch, while the weekend finale is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. Saturday's game was originally scheduled for 6 p.m., but was changed due to impending weather concerns.
Trailing for the first time all night after surrendering three runs in the bottom of the eight, Louisville started its emphatic response with a leadoff single to center by sophomore outfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy) off USF closer Austin Adams. After moving to second on a balk by Adams, Gardner was replaced by pinch runner Sutton Whiting (Louisville, Ky./Ballard HS) who then scored the tying run on an RBI single to right field by sophomore outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS). After moving to second on a groundout by junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC), Sturgeon scored game-winning run on an RBI single to right center by freshman shortstop Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS).
With the one-run lead in hand, senior right-hander Derek Self (Cave City, Ky./Caverna HS) recorded the final three outs in the bottom of the ninth to complete the victory. Overall, Self pitched 2.0 inning s of relief allowing one run on one hit with two strikeouts for the win to improve to 1-1 on the season. Adams was charged with the loss after allowing two runs on three hits in an inning of relief to fall to 1-1.
At the plate, Lucas finished 2-for-5 with a double, two RBI and a run scored as the Cardinals won despite being out-hit 9-7. Sturgeon finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs, while Ratajczak was 2-for-4 and scored twice as Louisville improved to 13-1 this season against left-handed starting pitchers.
The dramatic ninth inning was necessary after the Bulls overcame a two-run deficit in the eighth inning to gain their first lead of the night. USF opened the frame with back-to-back walks from Cardinals' sophomore reliever Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS) to designated hitter Todd Brazeal and catcher Andrew Longley. After shortstop Kyle Teaf loaded the bases with a single to right field off Self, pinch runner Anthony Diaz scored from third on an RBI walk to second baseman Luis Llerena for the first run. An RBI fielder's choice by Alex Mendez plated Longley to even the score, while an RBI fielder's choice off the bat of centerfielder Chad Taylor scored Teaf to give USF the 5-4 lead after eight innings.
Much earlier in the game, Louisville was first to find the scoring column with three runs on three hits all with two outs against USF lefty starter Andrew Barbosa. Sturgeon started the two-out rally with a single to right center before moving to second on a single to right by Ratajczak. Lucas followed with an RBI double to left field to plate Sturgeon for the 1-0 lead. After moving to third on the double by Lucas, Ratajczak scored the second run of the inning on a wild pitch by Barbosa. Moments later, Lucas walked in from third on a balk by Barbosa for the final run of the frame.
The Bulls battled back with two runs in the bottom of the third against Louisville righty starter Justin Amlung (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier HS). Rightfielder James Ramsay started the scoring with an RBI single down the right field line to plate Mendez, while first baseman Jimmy Falla followed later in the inning with an RBI single to right to score Ramsay to cut the Cardinals' lead to 3-2.
The score remained that way until the top of the eighth inning when Louisville pushed its lead to 4-2 after Ratajczak scored from third on passed ball. Ratajczak reached base earlier in the inning with a walk from reliever Kyle Parker, moved to second on a groundball off the bat of Lucas and then advanced to third on a USF error on a pickoff play at first before scoring on the passed ball. That set the stage for the dramatic conclusion.
Amlung earned a no-decision after allowing two runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts in 6.0 innings pitched, while Barbosa also finished with a no-decision after giving up three runs on four hits with eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings. Ramsay led the way for the Bulls offensively going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
Friday's game included a 45-minute weather delay in the top of the second inning because of lightning.
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