May 14, 2009
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
Junior lefty Justin Marks finished with a career best 12 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings to lead the 23rd-ranked Louisville baseball team to a 2-1 series-opening win over No. 27 South Florida in front of 2,321 fans on Thursday night at Jim Patterson Stadium.
With the win, the Cardinals (38-14, 17-7 BIG EAST) moved to within a 1/2 game of the first-place Bulls (32-21, 18-7) to keep their hopes alive for the program's first ever regular-season conference championship and moved closer to the program's first ever 40-win regular season with two games remaining. Game two between Louisville and the Bulls is set for Friday at 6 p.m., while Saturday's finale is scheduled for 1 p.m. Admission is free for the entire series with USF.
Marks, an All-American from Owensboro, Ky., allowed just four hits and no runs while pitching into the eighth inning to win his third straight game overall and improve to 9-2 on the season. Marks, Louisville's career leader in wins (27), strikeouts (282) and ERA (2.82), also struck out the side in order in the seventh and retired 10 straight Bulls' hitters during one stretch. After Thursday's game, Marks is also ranks second at Louisville in career start (45) and fifth in innings pitched with 281.1.
On a night when the pitchers dominated, Louisville got just enough from the plate as senior designated hitter Alec Lowrey picked up his third home run of the season and freshman outfielder Ryan Wright had an RBI single to score junior first baseman Andrew Clark, who finished 2-for-4 on the night, for the Cards' two runs. USF starter Derrick Stultz took the loss after the sophomore righty allowed just two runs on five hits in 5.0 innings to fall to 5-4 on the season.
For the ninth straight game, Louisville scored first as Lowrey connected on a 0-1 pitch from Stultz for his third run of the season, a solo shot down the left field line with two outs in the second inning for a 1-0 advantage.
Following a scoreless third inning, the Cardinals added to their lead as Clark led off with a double to right field, moved to third on a groundout to first by sophomore Phil Wunderlich and then scored on the RBI single through the left side by Wright for a 2-0 advantage.
After USF's Peter Brotons reached second with two outs in the eighth, Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell turned to sophomore righty Gabriel Shaw for the final out of the inning and the Paducah, Ky., native delivered as he got Jonathan Koscso to send a ground ball to Cards' third baseman Chris Dominguez, who tagged Brotons for that final out.
In the ninth, the Bulls scored an unearned run to cut the Cards' lead in half at 2-1 with a baserunner at third and two outs, but Shaw struck out shortstop Sam Mende to end the inning and earn his third save of the season, all in the last seven days.
- With the win, Louisville is within two games of the program's first ever 40-win regular season and one-win away from the program's best ever regular-season win total. The 2002 team earned 39 wins before earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals. The Cards' 38 wins in 2009 equals the 2007 team's regular-season win total before that squad added nine more wins en route to the program's first ever College World Series appearance in head coach Dan McDonnell's first season.
- With his 0-for-3 day at the plate on Thursday, sophomore outfielder Phil Wunderlich ended his career-best hitting streak at 14 games. However, the Chicago native still leads the team in hitting at .363 and ranks second in home runs with 14 and second in RBI with 60.
- For the third straight season, Cards' junior lefty Justin Marks has reached the nine-win total. Having never reached the 10-win total in a season, he'll have at least one more chance for that honor at next week's BIG EAST Tournament in Clearwater, Fla., and possibly more if the Cardinals can earn their third straight NCAA Regional bid.