June 6, 2014
Freshman Nick Solak drove in three runs, including two in the eighth inning to lift Louisville in the win.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Freshman designated hitter Nick Solak delivered a two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning to lift fourth-ranked Louisville to a 5-3 victory over No. 12 Kennesaw State in Friday night's NCAA Super Regional opener in front of a school record crowd of 5,351 at Jim Patterson Stadium.
With the game tied at 3-3, Solak (Woodridge, Ill.) sent a 2-1 pitch from Owls closer Justin McCalvin into right center plating junior second baseman Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky.) and senior catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky.) and give the Cardinals (49-15) the lead for good. The double capped a three-run eighth inning for Louisville, which closed out the win with junior righty Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill.) striking out two in a scoreless ninth for his 17th save of the season equaling the school record set by Neil Holland in 2010.
The victory moved Louisville within one win of its second straight College World Series berth. The Cardinals and Owls (40-23) will continue their best-of-three series on Saturday at 7 p.m., ET in a nationally televised matchup on ESPNU.
The eighth inning heroics capped another big game at the plate for Solak, who was 3-for-5 with two doubles, three RBI and a run scored in his 10th straight start as the Cardinals' DH. During that span, he has a .529 average (18-for-34) with 12 RBI, 10 runs scored, five walks and a .706 slugging percentage. Gibson finished the night 2-for-4 with a run driven in and two runs scored, while junior first baseman Grant Kay (Omaha, Neb.) was 3-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored as Louisville finished with an 11-5 advantage in hits.
The Cardinals entered the decisive eighth inning trailing 3-2 after Solak scored in the seventh on a two-out, RBI single to center by senior third baseman Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind.). The eighth inning started with a leadoff single from Kay, who advanced to second with his 23rd stolen base of the season. After a wild pitch moved Kay to third and Lucas reached base with a one-out walk, Gibson bunted for a single down the third base line scoring Kay to even the score at 3-3. A groundout moved Lucas to third and Gibson to second before Solak's game-changing double.
Louisville struck first early in Friday night's opener when Solak connected for a RBI single to left to score Gibson for the 1-0 lead in the third. Gibson was hit by a pitch from KSU starter Jordan Hillyer to start the inning before moving to second on a groundout.
The lead was short-lived however as the Owls answered with a pair of runs in the fourth against Louisville sophomore starter Kyle Funkhouser (Oak Forest, Ill.). First baseman Chris McGowan started the scoring with a RBI single through the right side to plate shortstop Kal Simmons, while designated hitter Brennan Morgan drove in outfielder Jacob Bruce with a fielder's choice for the 2-1 lead. An inning later, an unearned run allowed Kennesaw State to push its lead to 3-1 in the fifth before Louisville's late rally.
Junior lefty Kyle McGrath (Louisville, Ky.) pitched a scoreless eighth inning with two strikeouts to earn the win and improve to 2-1 on the season. Kennesaw State reliever James Connell was charged with the loss and dropped to 7-4 overall after allowing two runs on one hit in 0.2 innings. Funkhouser finished with a no-decision after allowing two earned runs on three hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings pitched.
Louisville Postgame Notes
- Friday's crowd of 5,351 shattered Louisville's previous school record of 4,733 set on April 2, 2013 against Kentucky at Jim Patterson.
- The Cardinals improved to 33-7 at home this season, one win shy of the school record for home wins set last season. Overall, Louisville is 247-82 (.750 winning percentage) at Jim Patterson Stadium since its opening in 2005.
- Louisville improved to 14-4 all-time in NCAA postseason games at home and has won seven straight overall.
- Friday marked the first time the Cardinals have trailed in this year's NCAA Championship.
- Louisville has won 97 straight games when leading after the eighth inning, including a 42-0 mark this season.
- The Cardinals have won 54 straight games when scoring five or more runs, including a 38-0 mark in 2014.
- Including Friday's game, Louisville has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 39 of 64 games this season.
- Senior Cole Sturgeon moved into sixth all-time at Louisville in at-bats with 808 and into a tie for eighth all-time in hits with 252.
- Along with equaling the single season school record for saves with his 17th, Nick Burdi extended his school record for career saves with No. 33.
- Kyle Funkhouser moved into second in single season innings pitched at Louisville with 114.1 trailing only Zack Pitts (121.2 in 2007) and moved into third in single season strikeouts with 117.
- Nick Solak equaled career highs with his three hits and three RBI on Friday.