The No. 2-ranked Louisville baseball team registered its fourth straight double-figure scoring performance to open the season with Tuesday afternoon’s 14-2 win over Eastern Kentucky at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Cardinals (4-0), who scored in seven of the eight innings they went to the plate on Tuesday, have scored 10 or more runs in the first four games of a season for the first time since accomplishing the same feat to begin the 1987 season. It is also the first time Louisville has opened a season with four straight wins while also scoring at least 10 runs in each game since the 1950 season.
Leading the way in Tuesday’s dominant offensive performance was the junior trio of catcher Will Smith, outfielder Corey Ray and second baseman Nick Solak, while sophomore righthander Kade McClure paced another strong outing for the Louisville pitching staff. As the Cardinals connected for a season-high 19 hits, Smith was 3-for-4 with a pair of two-run homers and a career-high six RBI. It marked the first time a Louisville player has driven in at least six runs in a game since Cole Sturgeon had six RBI against Western Michigan on Feb. 21, 2014.
Ray continued his torrid start to the season finishing with a career-high for hits in a 5-for-6 performance, which included his third home run in as many games, a triple and four runs scored. It was the first five-hit game for a Louisville player since Nick Ratajczak had five against Ohio State on March 20, 2012. Through the first four games of 2016, Ray has a .733 batting average (11-for-15) with three home runs, nine RBI, six stolen bases and 13 runs scored. Ray is also 4-for-4 in the first inning this season with a home run, a double and four runs.
The third standout at the plate for the Cardinals on Tuesday was Solak, who matched a career high for hits in a game in going 4-for-6 with a double and one RBI. Solak increased his season average to .455 to go with five RBI, seven walks and seven runs scored through four games.
On the mound, McClure matched his career-long outing with five shutout innings and allowed just two hits with two strikeouts and one walk. It was the third time McClure, who earned his second collegiate win while making his fifth career start, has worked five innings in a single game. Through the first four games, Louisville’s starting pitchers are 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 21.0 innings.
The recipe for success for the Cardinals on Tuesday included another fast start as the home club scored multiple runs in the first inning for the fourth straight game. After plating two runs in the opening inning in each of the first three games this season, Louisville gained command against EKU (1-3) with a three-run first inning. The scoring included a RBI sacrifice fly from sophomore Brendan McKay, a bases loaded walk to sophomore Blake Tiberi and a RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Smith.
Junior outfielder Logan Taylor added a RBI sac fly and Solak had a RBI single in the second inning, while Smith chipped in with a RBI single and scored on a wild pitch in the two-run third inning. After being held without a run in the fourth inning, the Cardinals resumed with their scoring ways in the fifth inning when Smith connected for a two-run homer to left field.
An inning later, Smith doubled up on his power game connecting for his second two-run homer of the afternoon before Ray drove a solo shot over the right field wall in the seventh inning. Louisville’s final two runs of the day came in the eighth inning as Ray delivered a RBI triple before scoring on an error by the Colonels.
Up next, No. 2 Louisville travels to Oxford, Miss., for a three-game series against No. 21 Ole Miss. The series will open Friday at 5 p.m., ET at Oxford-University Stadium with radio coverage starting on 1450 WXVW and concluding on 93.9 The Ville. The series will continue on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., with both games slated for 93.9 The Ville. All three games will also be televised by SEC Network+ online through WatchESPN.