Ryan Wright had a two-run homer in the first inning on Saturday. (photo courtesy of J. Meric)
May 28, 2011
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Ryan Wright opened the game with a two-run homer, while Jeff Thompson pitched 4.1 shutout innings to end it as the Louisville baseball fought off elimination again at the BIG EAST Championship with a 7-5 victory over St. John's on Saturday morning at Bright House Field.
With the win in their third straight elimination game, the sixth-seeded Cardinals improved to 32-28 overall, while the No. 2 Red Storm dropped to 34-19. Louisville and St. John's will play a second semifinal game at 5 p.m., on Saturday with the winner advancing to Sunday's championship game (noon ET, ESPNU) against either Seton Hall or Connecticut. The Cardinals will be playing their fifth game in four days.
Wright (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead HS) set the tone for the Cardinals in the top of the first by crushing the first offering from St. John's lefty starter Brendan Lobban over the left field wall for his team-leading 12th home run of the season and a 2-0 advantage. Freshman outfielder Adam Engel also scored on the home run after leading off the game with an infield single.
With the Cardinals holding a tight 7-5 lead, a runner at third and two outs in the fifth inning, Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) proceeded to record the final out of that frame and then scattered just three hits over the next four innings with five strikeouts to be credited with the win and improve to 2-1 on the season. Freshman right-hander Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS) was solid in the starting role for the Cardinals allowing only two unearned runs on just two hits with three strikeouts in 3.2 innings before departing with leg cramps on the 96-degree day in south Florida.
For the Red Storm, Lobban took the loss and dropped to 6-2 on the season after allowing six runs on five hits with five walks in 3.2 innings. At the plate, leftfielder Jeremy Baltz had a hit, two RBI and a run scored, while Robert Case was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
After Louisville took the early lead, St. John's evened the score at 2-2 in the second thanks to a pair of Louisville fielding errors. The inning started with a fielding error at third by sophomore Cade Stallings (Knoxville, Tenn./Farragut HS) on a chopper off the bat of Matt Wessinger and continued on a groundball up the middle off the bat of Baltz, which got under the glove of Wright. Those were followed by RBI groundouts by Case and Paul Karmas to plate the two unearned runs.
After Louisville stranded three on base to end the top of the third, St. John's head coach Ed Blankmeyer was ejected for arguing balls and strikes and then proceeded to make repeated physical contact while arguing with home plate umpire Dave Buck.
The Cardinals moved back in front in the top of the fourth scoring four runs on two hits for a 6-2 advantage. After sophomore first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) led off the inning with a single up the middle and Engel was hit by a pitch, Gardner scored both with a two-out, two-run double to left center. After an intentional walk to Wright, his second intentional pass of the day, Gardner moved to third and then scored on wild pitches from Lobban for the third run of the frame. After Ijames walked and Stallings was hit by a pitch to load the bases, freshman catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) was hit by a pitch from reliever Eddie Medina to plate Wright for the final run of the inning.
U of L added a run to its lead in the top of the fifth as freshman shortstop Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) was hit by a pitch to start the inning, moved to second on a groundout by senior outfielder Drew Haynes (New Albany, Ind./New Albany HS) and then scored on an RBI single to left field by Engel for the 7-2 cushion.
However, the Red Storm answered with three runs on just one hit and three walks from Cards' lefty reliever Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS). After the three walks loaded the bases with one out, catcher Joe Witkowski scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by Wessinger for the first run, while an RBI triple to right center by Baltz plated two more to cut the Louisville lead to 7-5.
That is where Thompson entered the game and closed the door on the Red Storm to close out the Cardinals' third win in as many days after dropping the tournament opener on Wednesday.
Saturday's second game against St. John's will be aired live on KOOL 1570 AM in Louisville and Southern Indiana, while streaming audio will be available through CardsTV at www.UofLSports.com. Links to live scoring and live video for the 2011 BIG EAST Championship can be accessed online at www.bigeastbaseball.com.
- The Cardinals, making their sixth appearance all-time in the BIG EAST Championship, improved to 7-3 in elimination games overall and 3-0 in 2011. Overall, Louisville is now 18-7 in the BIG EAST Championship.
- Louisville is now 17-5 all-time at Bright House Field, including a 4-1 mark in 2011.
- With five hits in four games thus far in the 2011 BIG EAST Championship, Wright has 20 career hits in the event, which is tied for fifth all-time with Notre Dame's J.J. Brock. Wright also pushed his career RBI total at the BIG EAST Championship to 23, which is the most all-time and four clear of second place.
- Senior Drew Haynes moved into first-place on Louisville's career games played list on Saturday as he appeared in his 243rd game in the Cardinal uniform. He surpassed the total of former U of L shortstop Chris Cates, who also played in 242 games from 2004-07.
- Louisville halted a five-game losing streak to St. John's, which still holds an 11-7 edge in the all-time series. The losing skid started with a pair of losses at last year's BIG EAST Championship and continued when Louisville was swept in a three-game series at St. John's on April 15-17.
- Adam Engel reached base in 12 straight plate appearances prior to his groundout in the eighth inning. The streak started with a hit-by-pitch against Cincinnati on Thursday and continued with back-to-back singles against the Bearcats, a walk, a single, two more walks and another single against Pittsburgh on Friday and included a single, a walk, an HBP and a single against St. John's before the groundout ended it.
- After trailing 7-0 in Wednesday's loss to Pittsburgh, the Cardinals have scored first in each of the last three wins in the tournament. Following a second inning run to open the scoring in Thursday's win over Cincinnati, Louisville got a two-run homer from Jeff Gardner in the first inning of Friday's win over Pitt and a two-run homer from Ryan Wright in the first inning of Saturday's win over St. John's.