Video Highlights Courtesy of BIGEAST.tv
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Sophomores lead the way as the 22nd-ranked Louisville baseball team opened the 2012 BIG EAST Championship with an 8-4 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday evening at Bright House Field.
With the victory, the top-seeded Cardinals (39-18) advance to a second round matchup against No. 5 Connecticut, a 7-2 winner over No. 4 USF, on Thursday at 8 p.m., ET. The Panthers (28-27) will play USF in an elimination game on Thursday at 5 p.m.
Sophomore shortstop Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) had a career-high in hits going 4-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a stolen base, while sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) finished 2-for-4 with a triple, two RBI and a run scored in the win. Sophomore outfielder and left-handed pitcher Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) was 3-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored at the plate while also earning his third save of the season after recording the final six outs of the game. And sophomore outfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) added two hits, a stolen base, an RBI and a run scored while anchoring the middle of the Cards' outfield.
Another sophomore, right-hander Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS), set the tone on the mound for the Cardinals allowing only one run on four hits with three strikeouts in 5.0 strong innings in the starting role to earn the win and improve to 5-0 on the season. In his five starts this season, Green is 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 18.1 innings pitched. After senior righty Travis Tingle (Louisville, Ky./Cleveland State CC) pitched 2.0 innings of relief, Sturgeon allowed only one run in his 2.0 innings to close it out.
Overall, the Cardinals out-hit the Panthers 16-11 and finished with their largest hit total since connecting for 17 hits in the 12-0 win at rival Kentucky on April 10. It marked the 29th time this season Louisville has finished with 10 or more hits and the 26th time they have scored seven or more runs.
The Cardinals opened the scoring in Wednesday's game with a two-out RBI single to right center by junior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) off lefty starter Matt Iannazzo. Senior outfielder Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) started the scoring chance with a one-out single to center and moved to second on a single through the right side by Chittenden before scoring the first run of the game.
Louisville added to its lead an inning later as Sturgeon, who reached base with a two-out triple to right center, scored on an infield RBI single by freshman designated hitter Mason Snyder (Ottawa, Ill./Marquette Academy) for the 2-0 advantage. The triple for Sturgeon was his team-leading fourth of the season.
The Cardinals pushed their lead to 4-0 in the fourth plating two runs on three hits in the inning. The scoring started with an RBI single to center by Gibson to send in Chittenden, who reached earlier in the inning on a bunt single. Later in the frame, junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) connected for an RBI single up the middle to score Wasserman for the second run in the frame.
The Panthers plated their first run of the night in the fifth as catcher Elvin Soto connected for his seventh home run of the season, a solo shot to right field, to cut the Louisville lead to 4-1. Pittsburgh pulled even closer in the seventh plating two runs against Tingle. Centerfielder Stephen Vranka provided the first run on an RBI double to right field, while designated hitter Anthony DeFabio followed with an RBI single to right for the second run. Any threat for more from the Panthers in the inning was halted when DeFabio was caught stealing on a perfect throw to second by Gibson from behind the plate.
The Cardinals answered the Pitt challenge by scoring four in the eighth to extend the lead to an 8-3 margin. The scoring started with an RBI triple to left center by Gibson to plate Chittenden, who led off the inning with a single to center. Engel followed with an RBI single to center to score Gibson for the second run of the inning. After Ratajczak was hit by pitch from reliever Dave Yakopec, Sturgeon followed with an RBI single to score Engel. Freshman outfielder Mike White (East Orange, N.J./Salisbury HS) ended the scoring for Louisville with an RBI single to center to plate Ratajczak.
The Panthers added one run in the ninth on an RBI single by Vranka for the final four-run margin. Iannazzo took the loss for Pittsburgh and dropped to 7-4 overall after allowing five runs on 12 hits with four strikeouts and one walk in 7.0+ innings of work.
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