June 8, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Senior pinch hitter Matt Helms delivered a two-out, two-run single to cap a three-run seventh inning and lift the eighth-ranked Louisville baseball team to a 5-3 comeback win over No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon in game one of the NCAA Super Regional at Hawkins Field.
The Cardinals (50-12) moved within one win of advancing to the College World Series for the second time in school history, while the Commodores (54-11) will need to win each of the final two games of the best-of-three series, which continues on Sunday at 4 p.m., ET on ESPN.
"Our guys battled and fought hard," said Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell. "Fortunately, we were able to put up a crooked number there in the seventh (inning). We showed our depth today."
After the Cardinals had scored once in the seventh to even the score at 2-2, Helms (Eufaula, Okla./Seminole State CC) connected on a 1-2 pitch from Vanderbilt righty closer Brian Miller sending it through the left side of the infield to score sophomore pinch runner Mike White (East Orange, N.J./Salisbury HS) and sophomore shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa./Louisville Ballard HS). For Helms, it was just his fourth and fifth RBIs of the season and the first since March 1 against Kent State. At the plate, he lifted his average to .268 (11-of-41) on the season.
Louisville opened the scoring in the three-run seventh inning when senior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) sent a 2-1 pitch from Vanderbilt lefty starter Kevin Ziomek through the left side of the infield to score junior designated hitter Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy). The inning started with a leadoff single to right by Gardner, who later moved to second on a groundout by junior outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS).
No Louisville player had more than one hit as the Cardinals won despite being out-hit 7-6. Wasserman was 1-for-2 with two RBI, while Gardner finished 1-for-3 with two runs scored. Junior catcher Shane Crain (Lexington, Ky./Wabash Valley CC) chipped in with a single and a RBI, while Whiting added a hit to go with his run scored.
On the mound, four Cardinals combined to limit the Commodores as junior righty Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS) pitched 1.1 innings of shutout relief with two strikeouts to earn the victory and improve to 6-1 on the season. After junior lefty Cody Ege (Cherokee, Iowa/Washington HS) allowed only an unearned run in one inning of relief, sophomore righthanded closer Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South HS) recorded the final five outs of the game in shutout fashion to earn his 16th save of the season. In the starting role, junior righty Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS) allowed two runs on six hits in five solid innings while finishing with a no-decision.
The Commodores struck first in Saturday's opener when first baseman Conrad Gregor connected for a two-strike, two-out RBI single through the right side just out of the reach of a diving Nick Ratacjzak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) at second to plate third baseman Xavier Turner. The Cardinals answered in the top of the second when Wasserman delivered a RBI sacrifice fly to deep centerfield to score Gardner and even the score at 1-1.
Vanderbilt moved back ahead in the third inning when outfielder Connor Harrell sent a 1-0 pitch from Green into left field to score Turner for the 2-1 advantage. The score remained there through the middle innings as Green and Ziomek controlled the action.
After Louisville had gained its first lead of the day, the Cardinals increased their cushion to 5-2 an inning later when junior outfielder Coco Johnson (Benton Harbor, Mich./Central Arizona) scored on a RBI sacrifice fly to deep right field by Crain. The Commodores cut the margin to 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth with an unearned run and they threatened for more in the ninth loading the bases with two outs against Burdi. However, the Louisville closer got Harrell to ground into a game-ending fielder's choice and clinch the victory.
Ziomek suffered just his third loss of the season and dropped to 11-3 overall after allowing four runs, all earned, on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 6.2 innings. Turner had two hits and scored twice to lead the Commodores' offense.
Postgame Louisville Notes
- With the win, Louisville won its 50th game of the season matching the school record first set during the 2010 season.
- The Cardinals won for the first time in school history at Vanderbilt ending a 13-game losing skid to the Commodores in Nashville.
- Louisville improved to 4-0 in NCAA Championship games in 2013 and 18-15 all-time in the NCAA Championship.
- The Cardinals moved to 3-3 overall in NCAA Super Regional games.
- UofL improved to 17-6 this season against lefty starters.
- The Cardinals are now 45-0 when leading after eight innings.
- Louisville was out-hit for just the 16th time this season and improved to 9-7 overall in those games.
- Entering the weekend ranked fourth in the nation in HBPs, the Cardinals were hit four times on Saturday increasing their school record total to 124.
- The four runs for Louisville against VU starter Kevin Ziomek matched the most he has allowed this season.
- The Cardinals earned their 16th comeback win of the season.
- With his 16th save, Nick Burdi moved within one of tying the single season school record for saves of 17 set by Neil Holland in 2010.
- Coco Johnson was hit by a pitch for the 21st time this season moving him into a tie for fourth on the Cardinals' single season leaderboard.
- Pitcher Cody Ege made his 35th appearance of the season on the mound moving him within two of the school record of 37 set by Trystan Magnuson in 2007.