Video from Saturday's Louisville-Arizona Postgame Press Conference
TUCSON, Ariz. - Living up to its reputation as one of the nation's top hitting teams, eighth-ranked and top-seeded Arizona swung its way to a 16-4 victory over the 25th-ranked Louisville baseball team in a winners' bracket matchup at the Tucson Regional on Saturday night at Hi Corbett Field.
With the loss, Louisville (40-21) is forced into an elimination game against No. 4 seed Missouri (33-27) on Sunday at 7 p.m., EDT (4 p.m., MST) on ESPN3.com. The Wildcats (40-17) will play the winner of the Cardinals-Tigers matchup in the championship round on Sunday at 11 p.m., EDT (8 p.m., MST). With a win on Sunday, Arizona will advance to next weekend's Super Regional round of the NCAA Championship, while a loss by the Wildcats would setup a title game rematch on Monday at 11 p.m., EDT (8 p.m., MST) on ESPNU.
Arizona pounded out 23 hits, a season-high allowed by Louisville, while overcoming an early 1-0 advantage for the Cardinals. After U of L gained a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Wildcats answered with five runs in the third and continued the offensive attack throughout.
All-American shortstop and Pac-12 Player of the Year Alex Mejia led the way for Arizona going 5-for-5 with three RBI and four runs scored as five different Wildcats finished with at least three hits in the win. On the mound, righty starter Konner Wade allowed two earned runs and four total runs on 10 hits with five strikeouts in 8.0+ innings to earn the win and improve to 8-3 on the season.
For Louisville, freshman righty Jared Ruxer (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) suffered his second straight loss and dropped to 8-3 overall after allowing five runs on seven hits in 2.1 innings. At the plate, senior outfielder Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) and junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) finished with two hits each.
After Ruxer worked a scoreless frame in the top of the first, the Cardinals broke through for a run in the bottom of the inning against Wade. Ratajczak started things with a one-out single up the middle and after moving to second on a walk to sophomore third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep), scored on an RBI single up the middle by Ijames for the 1-0 advantage.
The lead was short-lived as Arizona erupted for five runs in the third inning on six straight hits against Ruxer. After catcher Riley Moore was hit by a pitch to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Trent Gilbert, he scored when Cards' sophomore centerfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) mishandled a single by Joey Rickard for the first run.
The Wildcats gained their first lead of the night moments later on a RBI triple to left center by outfielder Johnny Field to score Rickard. Mejia followed with a line drive off Young at third base that caromed into left center for an RBI double to plate Field for the 3-1 lead. Outfielder Robert Refsnyder then delivered a RBI single to right center to score Mejia for the fourth run. After moving to second on a single by third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean, Refsnyder scored on a RBI single to left by designated hitter Bobby Brown for the four-run cushion.
Following a scoreless fourth inning, Arizona added to its lead in the fifth plating two runs on three hits against Louisville righty reliever Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS). The scoring started with a RBI single down the left field line by Moore allowing Brown to reach home. One batter later, Rickard connected for a RBI double to right center to score Moore for the 7-1 advantage. An inning later, the Wildcats added an unearned run against Louisville freshman righty Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South HS) to increase the margin to 8-1.
Louisville stopped the Arizona scoring flurry with two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a strange play that started with a passed ball on a strikeout of catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS). After Arizona catcher Riley Moore tracked down the loose ball, his throw to first base hit Gibson in the back allowing sophomore shortstop Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) to score the first run from third. Sophomore outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) moved from second to third on the throw by Moore and then scored standing up as the ball rolled away after hitting Gibson to cut the deficit to 8-3.
With Louisville trying to work its way back into the game, Arizona answered with seven runs in the seventh inning to halt any comeback attempt. The scoring plays in the inning included a RBI double by Field, a two-run double by Mejia, a RBI single by Mejias-Brean and a three-run homer by Brandon Dixon. The teams then exchanged runs in the ninth inning for the final margin.
Fans can follow Louisville baseball on Twitter at http://twitter.com/uoflbaseball and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ulbaseball.