Louisville sophomore Phil Wunderlich
May 23, 2009
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The 17th-ranked Louisville baseball team's furious rally in the bottom of the ninth fell just short and the Cardinals dropped their first game of the 2009 BIG EAST Championship with a 6-5 decision to Notre Dame on Saturday at Bright House Field.
With the loss, top-seeded Louisville (42-15) dropped to 2-1 in the 2009 BIG EAST Championship and will face No. 5 seed Notre Dame (36-22) at approximately 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, with the winner advancing to Sunday's championship game. The winner of the Cards-Irish semifinal will face the winner of Saturday's South Florida-Connecticut semifinal in Sunday's title game.
With the game tied at 3-3, Notre Dame scored three runs in the ninth to take their second lead of the day. Louisville mounted a comeback to pull to within a run with only one out, but the Cardinals were unable to pull even and dropped just the second loss in their last 15 games overall.
Following a pair of scoreless innings on the mound from Louisville sophomore lefty Dean Kiekhefer to start the game, the Cardinals started the scoring for the their third straight game in the BIG EAST Championship as sophomore outfielder Phil Wunderlich led off the bottom of the second with his 16th home run of the season, this one an opposite field shot over the wall in left field off Notre Dame starter Eric Maust, for a 1-0 advantage for Louisville. Freshman outfielder Ryan Wright followed by reaching base on a fielding error by Irish first baseman Ryan Connolly, moved to second on a groundout to second by junior catcher Jeff Arnold, advanced to third on a groundout to shortstop by senior Alec Lowrey and then scored on an RBI single to left field by senior shortstop John Dao for the 2-0 lead.
The Louisville deficit was short-lived in the sixth as junior third baseman Chris Dominguez hammered his 22nd home run of the season, a two-out shot over the wall in left field, to tie the game at 3-3. The 22 home runs is a career-high for Dominguez, who hit 21 bombs in 2008, and is tied for fifth on Louisville's single season list with Jim LaFountain (1976) and Matt Berger (1995).
Following a scoreless eighth inning, which included a 22-minute rain delay, Louisville sophomore righty Gabriel Shaw wasn't as sharp as he had been in the seventh or eighth innings as the Paducah, Ky., native allowed three runs on four hits for the Cardinals' largest deficit of the tournament. After Doyle grounded out to start the inning, McConnell singled to left center and then scored on an RBI triple by pinch hitter David Mills for the 4-3 advantage. Mills then scored on an RBI triple by A.J. Pollock, while Pollock made it 6-3 Irish as he scored on an RBI single to center by Golden Tate.
The Cardinals rallied in the bottom of the ninth, but were never able to plate the tying run. Clark led off the inning with a double to center and was followed by a walk to Dominguez, which brought Irish head coach Dave Schrage out to replace Maust on the mound with Joe Spano. He gave up a single to Wunderlich to load the bases and was then replaced by Will Hudgins.
Wright followed with an RBI single to right center to score Clark and make it 6-4 Notre Dame. Sophomore pinch hitter Nate Holland then reached base on an RBI fielder's choice to the shortstop to score Dominguez for a 6-5 deficit with runner's on first and second. A single by Lowrey loaded the bases for the Cards, but Hudgins got Dao to bounce into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the game in favor of the Irish.
Shaw took the loss for the Cardinals after giving up three runs on four hits in 2.1 innings to fall to 3-1 on the season, while Maust earned the win after allowing five runs on six hits in 8.0 innings to improve to 6-3 overall. Hudgins was credited with his third save of the season after retiring the final three outs of the game with two hits mixed in.
- Playing in their fourth BIG EAST Championship since joining the league prior to the 2006 season, the Cardinals now have an 11-4 record overall in the event. Louisville won the 2008 title and reached the title game in 2006. The Cardinals also fell to 9-2 in BIG EAST Championship games at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., with Saturday's loss.
- Prior to the loss, Louisville had won six straight games and 13 of its last 14 games overall dating back to April 26, when the Cards dropped their final two games to Notre Dame at Jim Patterson Stadium.
- In a tournament that has been delayed numerous times due to weather, the Louisville-Notre Dame semifinal game was delayed an hour due to a rain shower that moved through the Clearwater area on Saturday morning. Two of the Cards' three games at the 2009 BIG EAST Championship has been delayed by rain, while all four of Notre Dame's tourney games have been delayed by rain.