May 18, 2012
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The 22nd-ranked Louisville baseball team lost control of its BIG EAST title destiny with a disappointing 8-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Friday night at Charles L. Cost Field.
With the loss, the Cardinals dropped to 37-18 overall and 17-9 in BIG EAST Conference action, one game behind first-place St. John's (18-8), which clinched no worse than a share of the regular season title after Friday's action. U of L needs a win in Saturday's deciding third game with the Panthers (28-25, 10-16 BIG EAST) and a loss by St. John's in its series finale with Seton Hall to earn a share of the program's third BIG EAST regular season title in four years.
Saturday's series and regular season finale between Louisville and Pittsburgh is set for a 1 p.m., ET first pitch and fans can follow all of the action on News/Talk 1570 AM (WNDA) in Louisville or online through CardsTV at UofLsports.com.
In Friday's game, the Cardinals scored first with a run in the second inning only to allow the Panthers to score eight straight runs over five consecutive innings to garner control. Pittsburgh finished with a 13-9 advantage in the hit column marking the second straight game they have out-hit Louisville, which won Thursday's series-opener 6-5 in 12 innings despite being out-hit 13-6.
Following a scoreless first inning, the Cardinals plated an unearned run in the second inning on a two-out RBI single to left field by junior designated hitter Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS). The inning started with freshman shortstop Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) reaching base on a fielding error by Pitt third baseman Sam Parente. After moving to second on his sixth stolen base of the season, Lucas scored without a throw on the Wasserman single against Pitt righty starter Ethan Mildren.
Pittsburgh answered in the bottom of the second plating two runs on three hits to gain a 2-1 advantage. The scoring started on a bases loaded sacrifice fly to right field by centerfielder Stephen Vranka to score catcher Elvin Soto, who reached base earlier in the inning on a one-out walk from Louisville righty starter Jeff Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS). Designated hitter Anthony DeFabio followed with an RBI single to left field to plate shortstop Evan Oswald and give Pitt the lead for the good. The damage would have been worse had it not been for a terrific play by Louisville junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC), who made a diving stop on a single up the middle by Rick Devereaux and threw home to catcher Shane Crain (Lexington, Ky./Wabash Valley CC) for the tag on a sliding Derik Wilson, who was attempting to score from second.
An inning later, the Panthers pushed their lead to 3-1 when leftfielder Boo Vazquez scored from third as Parente grounded into a 463 double play. Vazquez led off the inning with a single up the middle, moved to second with his fourth stolen base of the season and advanced to third on a single by rightfielder Casey Roche before scoring on the double play.
The Panthers kept the pedal down in the fourth inning adding three more runs on three hits and one Louisville walk for a 6-1 advantage. The run-scoring hits, both with two outs, came from Roche on a two-run double down the right field line and an RBI single to left center by Parente against righty reliever Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS).
Pittsburgh added an unearned run in the fifth inning against righty Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South HS) and plated a single run in the sixth on a balk by the Louisville freshman for an 8-1 lead.
The Cardinals halted the Panthers' run-scoring stretch at eight with a run in the eighth inning when sophomore outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) scored on an RBI sacrifice fly to deep left field by sophomore third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep). Sturgeon led off the inning with a walk from Mildren, moved to second on a groundout by Ratajczak and advanced to third on a throwing error before scoring for the final 8-2 margin.
At the plate, senior first baseman Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) finished 2-for-4 and was the only Cardinal with more than one hit. On the mound for Louisville, Thompson lost his second straight start to fall to 9-3 on the season after allowing three runs on six hits with four walks and no strikeouts in only 2.0+ innings, his shortest outing the season.
For Pittsburgh, Mildren allowed just one earned run while scattering nine hits with seven strikeouts in a complete game victory to improve to 6-5 overall. At the plate, Oswald was 4-for-4 with two runs scored, while Roche finished 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs.
Following Saturday's game, the Cardinals will begin post-season action on day one of the 2012 BIG EAST Championship on Tuesday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.
Fans can follow Louisville baseball on Twitter at http://twitter.com/uoflbaseball and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ulbaseball.