May 14, 2011
STORRS, Conn. - A 10th-inning, three-run homer by junior outfielder Stewart Ijames propelled the Louisville baseball team to a dramatic 6-3 road win over No. 15 Connecticut in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader at J.O. Christian Field.
With the win, the Cardinals improved to 26-26 overall and 12-12 in the BIG EAST, while the Huskies dropped to 36-14-1 on the season and 20-4 in league games. After Saturday's action, Louisville is seventh in the BIG EAST standings, 1/2 game behind Cincinnati (12-11) and Notre Dame (12-11) in fifth place, 1/2 game ahead of eighth-place Seton Hall (11-12) and one game in front of ninth-place USF (11-13). Only the top eight teams in the regular season standings advance to the annual BIG EAST Championship on May 25-29 in Clearwater, Fla.
With freshman outfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) on second, junior infielder Ryan Wright (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead HS) on first and two outs in a tie game, Ijames sent a 3-2 pitch from UConn reliever Dan Feehan over the wall in right center for his team-leading 11th home run of the season and the three-run advantage for the Cardinals. Freshman right-hander Jeff Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) then entered from the Cardinals' bullpen to record the final three outs in the bottom of the 10th and earn his first career save.
Thompson followed sophomore righty Andy Flett (Fenton, Mo./Lindbergh HS), who pitched 1.2 innings of shutout relief to earn the win and improve to 2-0 on the season. The Cardinals got a terrific start from junior right-hander Travis Tingle (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS), who allowed only three hits with a career-high seven strikeouts in a career-best 6.1 innings of shutout baseball.
For the Huskies, Feehan took the loss and dropped to 1-2 on the season after allowing three runs on just one hit with two walks and six strikeouts in 2.2 innings of relief. Freshman lefty Brian Ward got the no-decision for UConn after allowing three runs, including two earned, on five hits with eight strikeouts in 7.1 innings in the starting role.
The Cardinals opened the scoring in the third inning of Saturday's game with a run on two hits against Ward. Freshman infielder Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS). After advancing to third on single by Engel, Chittenden scored on an RBI sacrifice flyout by freshman catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) for the 1-0 lead. Engel finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored in the win.
After three scoreless innings, Louisville pushed its advantage to 2-0 in the seventh as sophomore infielder Cade Stallings (Knoxville, Tenn./Farragut HS) sent a 1-1 pitch from Ward well beyond the wall in left field for his second home run of the season and his second in Saturday's doubleheader.
The Huskies threatened to cut into the Cardinals' lead in the bottom of the seventh as Ijames started the inning by making an outstanding leaping catch at the wall in right field to rob UConn's George Springer of a home run. Connecticut followed that by loading the bases with only one out, but Louisville stopped the threat by going to its bullpen. Freshman lefty Cody Ege (Cherokee, Iowa/Washington HS) recorded the second out of the frame with a strikeout of pinch hitter Mike Friel, while freshman righty Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS) followed by getting a groundout off the bat of shortstop Tom Verdi to end the inning.
Moments later, Louisville added an unearned run to increase its lead to 3-0 in the top of the eighth. Engel led off the inning with a single to left field, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gibson, advanced to third on a wild pitch by Feehan and scored on a passed ball by catcher Doug Elliott.
The Huskies finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth for three runs on four hits against three different Louisville pitchers to even the score. The inning started with a single by outfielder Billy Ferriter, who moved to third on a single by second baseman L.J. Mazzilli and scored on an RBI sacrifice fly to center by outfielder John Andreoli. After moving to second on a single by Springer, Mazzilli scored the second run of the inning on an RBI single through the right side by first baseman Mike Nemeth. The Huskies tied the score at 3-3 moments later when Springer, who moved to third on the single by Nemeth, scored on an RBI sacrifice fly to left by third baseman Ryan Fuller.
UConn threatened to end the game in the bottom of the ninth after loading the bases with no outs against Flett. However, the Louisville pitcher battled back to get an unconventional 6-2-5 double-play off the bat of Mazzilli for the first two outs of the inning and followed by forcing Andreoli into a flyout to right field to end the threat. From there, Louisville regained the lead for good in the following inning to take the final game of the weekend series.
Up next, Louisville will open the final week of the regular season with a non-conference road game at Indiana on Tuesday at 3 p.m., ET in Bloomington. Following that one, the Cardinals will close the week with an important three-game series at home against Notre Dame, which will open on Thursday at 6 p.m., at Jim Patterson Stadium. Game two is set for Friday at 7 p.m., while the series finale is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. Admission is free for the entire series.
- After Saturday's games, Louisville holds a 10-7 lead in the all-time series with Connecticut. The Cardinals and Huskies are tied at 3-3 in games played in the state of Connecticut.
- With the win in Saturday's second game, the Cardinals ended their eight-game losing skid, the longest since 1996 when they lost 12 straight from April 6 to April 27.
- Louisville is 15-1 when scoring six or more runs this season. The Cardinals also improved to 2-1 in extra-inning games this season.
- After playing in 55 straight games (going back to last season) since his last home run, sophomore Cade Stallings homered in back-to-back games for the first time in his career on Saturday.
- Saturday was the first doubleheader of the season for Louisville, which dropped a 7-5 decision in the first game of the day. Last year, the Cardinals played in six regular-season doubleheaders.