Completing their de facto home-and-home series for the season, the #7 Louisville Cardinals (45-16) stymied a late rally by the Indiana Hoosiers (37-23) in a game that was tense and full of emotion. The Cards plated the games first 7 runs, only for the Hoosiers to go on a 7-2 run towards the end of the game. The ninth inning was marked with controversy, as reliever Michael McAvene was ejected on top of both team getting involved in postgame scuffle in the handshake line.
Recently the Cardinal Nine had been in a bit of a slump in their postseason games, plating only 9 runs in their 2 games in the ACC Baseball Championship and their 2 prior games in the Louisville Regional combined. Facing elimination, head coach Dan McDonnell opted for a last second lineup change, moving Logan Wyatt to the 2 hole and Jake Snider to the 5 spot in the lineup.
The lineup tune up paid near-immediate dividends, as Louisville was able to put up a 4-spot in just the second inning. Designated hitter Danny Oriente got the scoring efforts started, with the junior striking his team-leading 15th double of the season to bring home a pair of runners. Batting last in the order, junior second baseman Justin Lavey doubled up the Louisville lead with a 2 RBI base hit of his own, driving in his 3rd hit of the postseason.
Heading into this game the Hoosiers are lead in the nation in home runs, it was Cardinals who had the long ball working for them early. Freshman third baseman Alex Binelas got to don the home run helmet for the 14th time this season, with his 2 RBI homer to straightaway center field giving the Cards a 6 run lead through just 3 innings. He is 1 shy of the UofL freshman home run record of 15, set by fellow third baseman Chris Dominguez in 2007. Binelas would get his 3rd RBI of the game a couple innings later mainly thanks to some heads up base running from junior shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald, scoring all the way from second base on a routine ground ball.
Getting the ball to start the game, right-hander Bobby Miller was a model of efficiency for the Cardinals. The sophomore really had the breaking ball working him, playing a key role in his 8 strikeout performance. Miller also did a great job working the count against the IU batters, tossing a first pitch strike to 20 of his 28 batters faced. Once the Hoosiers cracked the scoreboard in the sixth inning by putting up a 3-spot against him, Miller would exit the game after tossing 107 total pitches. Junior lefty Adam Elliott would take to the mound to give Miller some relief, only allowing one additional run to the Hoosiers in the inning.
IU made it a more interesting game after their 4-spot in the sixth, but the Alex Binelas Show was determined to stretch the lead back out. His second extra base hit of the game in the seventh inning would give him his 4th RBI of the contest, marking the 7th time this season he has logged a 4+ RBI game. Later in the inning with 2 outs, junior outfielder Drew Campbell would collect his first base hit of the game, sending Binelas home and extending the lead back out to 5 with just 2 innings left in the ball game.
But the Hoosiers would try to do whatever they could do in order to stave off elimination. They’d plate a run off a fielder’s choice & error in the eighth, but head coach Dan McDonnell would opt to go for the 4 out save and insert junior right-hander Michael McAvene to relieve Adam Elliott. He would escape the eighth without surrendering any more runs, but allow a solo shot and an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Making matters worse, he would be ejected from the game for appearing to complain about a ball/strike call on a full count. Michael Kirian would fill in, and toss a single pitch for a strikeout to end the game.
The victory sets up a matchup against Illinois State in the regional final later today, with first pitch scheduled for 6pm. Louisville must win tonight and tomorrow to advance to the Super Regionals, while Illinois State only needs to win tonight to advance.
W: Bobby Miller (6-1), L: Tanner Gordon (6-6), S: Michael Kirian (4)
- Junior second baseman Justin Lavey ties his career high in hits with a 3-4, 2 RBI performance at the plate.
- The win give Dan McDonnell his 30th win in the regional round, sporting a record of 30-12 in the opening round of the tournament. At home, his record improves to 22-4.
- RHP Michael McAvene has been suspended for four games. His earliest chance to pitch would be game 3 of a Super Regional or game 1 of the College World Series.
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