May 6, 2012
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Freshman righty Jared Ruxer provided a quality start while junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak had the big hit as the 18th-ranked Louisville baseball team earned an 8-4 series-clinching road win over West Virginia on Sunday afternoon at Hawley Field.
With their second straight win, the Cardinals improved to 33-15 overall and 14-7 in BIG EAST Conference action, while the Mountaineers dropped to 18-29 on the season and 6-15 in league games. With only two weeks left in the regular season, Louisville is tied for second with Connecticut in the BIG EAST standings, two games behind first-place St. John's. The Cardinals will host the Red Storm for a pivotal three-game series this weekend at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The win on Sunday also marked career win No. 250 for sixth year Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell. Overall, McDonnell is 250-121 as the Cardinals' coach for a .673 winning percentage. During his tenure as coach, McDonnell has led U of L to two BIG EAST regular season titles, two BIG EAST Tournament titles, four NCAA appearances, two NCAA Super Regional berths and one College World Series appearance.
On Sunday, Ruxer (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) led the way on the mound allowing only one earned run on five hits in 6.0 innings to earn the victory and improve to 6-1 on the season. At the plate, Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) was 2-for-4 with three RBI, including a two-run single in the seventh inning to give the Cardinals the lead for good at 4-2.
The decisive seventh inning started with a leadoff single to center by pinch hitter Matt Helms (Eufaula, Okla./Seminole State CC), who then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS). After sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) was hit by a pitch and sophomore outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) walked to load the bases, Ratajczak sent a 2-2 pitch from WVU starter Dan Dierdorff into right field to score both Helms and Gibson.
Pinch hitter Alex Chittenden
(Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) followed with an RBI sacrifice bunt against WVU reliever Caleb Ross to score Sturgeon from third for the third run of the inning. One batter later, freshman Zach Lucas
(Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) singled through the left side to score Ratajczak for the 6-2 advantage.
After entering in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter, Helms finished 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored at the plate to go with an outstanding running catch in deep left field in the eighth inning. Sturgeon added a triple, a walk, an RBI and two runs in the win.
The Cardinals opened the scoring early in Sunday's game plating a run in the first inning for the third straight game in the series. Sturgeon led off the game with a triple to right center, his third three-bagger of the season, and then scored one batter later on an RBI double down the right field line by sophomore designated hitter Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy).
An inning later, Louisville pushed its lead to 2-0 after senior outfielder Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) belted his team-leading 11th home run of the season over the centerfield wall. The home run was the 44th of the career for Ijames, which places him tied for sixth on the Cardinals' all-time list with Dan Kopriva (1991-92) and Tim Harper (1995-98).
The Mountaineers cut the deficit in half in the fifth with an unearned run against Ruxer. After reaching base on a fielding error with two outs in the inning, third baseman Nate Antone scored on an RBI double down the right field line by catcher Alan Filauro.
An inning later, WVU tied the score at 2-2 in the sixth on an RBI single to left center by second baseman Billy Fleming to score designated hitter Matt Frazer. The rally started when Frazer was hit by a pitch with two outs and continued on a single through the left side by shortstop John Polonius.
After the Cardinals moved back ahead with the four-run seventh, they added two more runs in the eighth inning. Helms again started the threat with a leadoff single and moved to second on a single by Wasserman. After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by Gibson, Helms scored on an RBI sac fly by Sturgeon for the five-run lead. Ratajczak followed with an RBI single through the left side to score Wasserman for the 8-2 advantage.
The Mountaineers answered with two runs in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI double by first baseman Ryan McBroom and an RBI by Polonius. However, WVU never got any closer as junior righty Matt Koch (Cherokee, Iowa/Washington HS) pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close out the win.
Dierdorff was charged with the loss for West Virginia to fall to 4-6 overall after surrendering six runs on five hits in 6.1 innings pitched. Polonius led the way at the plate finishing 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Louisville will conclude its five-game road swing with a midweek game at Vanderbilt on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., ET in Nashville, Tenn.
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