May 23, 2009
CLEARWATER, Fla. -
Junior lefty Justin Marks struck out Ryne Intlekofer in the bottom of the ninth inning to close the 17th-ranked Louisville baseball team's dramatic 7-6 win over Notre Dame on Saturday night at Bright House Field and clinch a spot in Sunday's BIG EAST Championship title game against Connecticut.
With the win, the top-seeded and defending tournament champion Cardinals (42-15) avenged their 6-5 loss to the Fighting Irish (35-23) earlier on Saturday and advanced to their second straight BIG EAST Championship title game and their third in four years, where they will face the No. 6 seeded Huskies at 11 a.m. ET. Live play-by-play of the title game will be available over the air in Louisville on WNDA 1570 AM or online through CardsTV at www.UofLSports.com.
Pitching on just two days rest, Marks came out of the bullpen to allow only one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts in 4.0 innings to earn the win and improve to 10-2 overall. With the 10 wins this season, Marks matches Louisville's single season record for wins held by Zack Pitts (2007), Zach Johnson (2002) and Scott Reburn (1984). Marks also earned his fourth career win in the BIG EAST Championship, which is tied for No. 1 on that list with Villanova's Rafael Novoa.
"Justin showed a lot of guts tonight and you have to be impressed with what he did over those four innings," said Cards' head coach Dan McDonnell. "It was a long day for our squad with a 6 a.m., wake-up call for the 9 a.m. start, two rain delays and a disappointing loss in the opener, but our guys never backed down and they never stopped fighting. We're excited about coming back on Sunday morning to play for another BIG EAST title."
At the plate, the Cardinals were led by the trio of Andrew Clark, Chris Dominguez and Phil Wunderlich. Clark, a junior first baseman from New Palestine, Ind., went 3-for-4 with a triple, three RBI and a run scored. Dominguez, a junior third baseman, finished 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI, while Wunderlich, a sophomore designated hitter/outfielder was 3-for-5 with a home run and two RBI.
Following a scoreless first inning, the Cardinals opened the scoring in the second inning as Dominguez and Wunderlich led off the inning with back-to-back home runs for a 2-0 advantage. Dominguez blistered a 2-0 pitch from Notre Dame starter Cole Johnson over the wall in left center for his 23rd home run of the season and his second of the day. On the next pitch from Johnson, Wunderlich connected for his 17th home run of the season and his second of the day, this one over the wall in left field. Both Dominguez and Wunderlich homered in the Cards' 6-5 loss to Notre Dame earlier in the day.
Louisville added three more runs in the top of the third to push the advantage out to 5-0. Sophomore outfielder Drew Haynes led off with a single to left and moved to third on a double to left center by sophomore outfielder Josh Richmond. One hitter later, both Haynes and Richmond scored on a two-run triple off the wall in right field by Clark, his second triple of the season. Clark then scored on an RBI sacrifice fly to deep center field by Dominguez for the final run of the inning for the Cardinals.
The Fighting Irish broke through in the bottom of the third for their first run of the game off sophomore lefty starter Bob Revesz as third baseman Mick Doyle led off with a double to left center and then scored on a double down the left field line by catcher Cameron McConnell to make it 5-1. With runners on the corners and only one out, Louisville senior shortstop John Dao made a spectacular diving stop on a ground ball up the middle by UND's Golden Tate to start an electrifying inning-ending 6-4-3 double-play.
Notre Dame continued to chip away at the Cardinals in the fourth with one run on five total hits, including four straight singles. With two outs, rightfielder Brayden Ashdown singled through the left side, moved to second on a single to left field by first baseman Ryan Connolly and then scored on an RBI single to right by Doyle to make it 5-2 Louisville. Revesz was then replaced on the mound by freshman Derek Self, who recorded the final out of the inning to keep the lead at three.
For the third straight inning, the Irish cut into the Cardinals' lead with two more runs in the fifth. Centerfielder A.J. Pollock led things off with a bunt single and moved to second on a groundout to the right side by leftfielder Golden Tate. Shortstop Jeremy Barnes then followed with a home run to left field, his 15th of the season, to cut the Cards' advantage to 5-4 after five innings.
After three scoreless innings, Louisville added to its lead in the seventh with one run on two hits off Notre Dame reliever Sam Elam. Haynes led off the inning with a single to left, but was forced out at second on a fielder's choice off the bat of Richmond. After moving to second with his fifth stolen base of the season, Richmond moved to third on a wild pitch by Elam and then scored on an RBI single to left field by Clark to push the Cardinals' lead to 6-4 in the middle of the seventh.
Notre Dame trimmed the Louisville lead to 6-5 in the eighth as Intlekofer led off with a walk from Marks, moved to third on a throwing error by Marks on a pick-off attempt at first and then scored on a RBI groundout to second by Connolly. However, the Cardinals got that run back in the top of the ninth as Elam walked junior second baseman Adam Duvall, Clark and Dominguez to load the bases. After Notre Dame head coach Dave Schrage replaced Elam with lefty Joe Spano, Wunderlich singled through the right side to score Duvall for a 7-5 Cards' lead.
That insurance run proved to be just that for the Cardinals as the Irish pushed one run across in the bottom of the ninth, but could get no closer. McConnell led off the inning with a single to right field, moved to second a walk by pinch hitter Casey Martin and advanced to third on a flyout to right by Pollock. He then scored on an RBI single to left center by Tate to cut the Cards' lead to 7-6. With runners on first and second and only one out, Barnes grounded out to Marks to move the runners over setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
For Louisville, Revesz allowed two runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings, while Self allowed two runs on three hits in 1.1 innings of relief. For Notre Dame, Johnson took the loss in the starting role after allowing four runs on four hits in 2.1 innings. In relief, David Mills allowed one run on two hits in 1.2 innings, Elam allowed two runs on five hits in 4.1 innings, while Spano allowed the one hit in less than an inning.
- Playing in their fourth BIG EAST Championship since joining the league prior to the 2006 season, the Cardinals now have a 12-4 record overall in the event. Louisville reached the title game in 2006, won the 2008 title and will now play for the 2009 title. The Cardinals also improved to 10-2 in BIG EAST Championship games at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., with Saturday night's win.
- Louisville has now won 14 of its last 16 games overall dating back to April 26, when the Cards dropped their final two games to Notre Dame at Jim Patterson Stadium.
- With Saturday's win, Dan McDonnell improved to 131-60 in his three seasons as Louisville's head coach for a winning percentage of almost 69 percent.
- With a win in Sunday's title game, Louisville would be the first team to win back-to-back BIG EAST Tournament titles since Notre Dame accomplished the feat in 2005-06.