In a rematch of last year’s opening round game at the College World Series, the second-ranked Louisville baseball team was unable to overcome an early deficit falling 5-2 to No. 7 Vanderbilt in the annual Battle of the Barrel on Tuesday night at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Commodores (37-16) scored all five of their runs in the first three innings of the game, including four in the third, and then held off the Cardinals (40-13) in the final regular season midweek game for both clubs. Vanderbilt reclaimed the traveling barrel trophy from Louisville, which earned an 11-7 win in last year’s regular season matchup in Nashville.
“There are games when one inning can beat you and tonight, we couldn’t overcome that third inning. We had our shot in the sixth and we got something going but they went into the bullpen and got out of it,” said Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell. “Hopefully, we can learn something from tonight and turn our focus to a very hot NC State team. We want to play good baseball this weekend and we’ve challenged our guys and reminded them that at this point in the season, everybody is playing for something.”
The Commodores opened the scoring on Tuesday with a leadoff home run from Bryan Reynolds in the first inning. After taking a first pitch strike from Louisville freshman righty Kade McClure (Mentor, Ohio), Reynolds sent the second offering of the game over the wall in right center for his fourth home run of the season.
Vanderbilt added to its advantage in the third inning with four runs, capped by a two-out, two-run single from Jeren Kendall. Dansby Swanson started the scoring in the third with a RBI triple to right center to drive in Reynolds. Zander Wiel followed with a RBI single to left to plate Swanson for the 3-0 advantage. After Will Toffey singled to move Wiel to third and then stole second, Kendall drove them both in with his single to left for the five-run edge.
Louisville cut into the deficit in the sixth inning with a pair of runs against Commodores lefty Ryan Johnson. After reaching base with a leadoff bunt single, senior Mike White (East Orange, N.J.) advanced to second on a single by freshman Devin Hairston (Lexington, Ky.) before scoring on a fielding error in right field by Kendall. Senior Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa.) followed with a RBI single up the middle to drive in Hairston and narrow the Vanderbilt margin to 5-2.
However, the Cardinals got no closer as lefty John Kilichowski entered from the Vanderbilt bullpen to end the Louisville threat in the sixth en route to 3.2 innings of shutout relief. Johnson earned the win for the Commodores and moved to 5-0 on the season after allowing two runs, including one unearned, on four hits in 5.1 innings, while Kilichowski locked up his second save.
McClure took the loss for the Cardinals and dropped to 1-1 on the season after allowing five runs on six hits in three innings.
Up next, No. 2 Louisville will close the regular season with a three-game series at NC State starting Thursday at 6 p.m., ET (ESPN3). The Cardinals will continue the weekend set on Friday at 6:30 p.m., (ESPN3) before concluding the series on Saturday at 1 p.m.(RSN/ESPN3). All three games against the Wolfpack will be aired on 93.9 The Ville.