Facing their first top 10 team of the season, the #7 Louisville Cardinals (13-4, 2-1) took on the also ranked #7 Ole Miss Rebels (12-5) and swept them in the rare two game midweek series. Ole Miss played Louisville exceptionally close, as Louisville required an extra inning walk off in game 1 and had to face a furious late inning rally in game 2. But the Cardinal Nine did everything they could against the top 10 team, to make sure the fans went home happy. All facets of the Louisville offense performed exceptionally well against the perennial baseball powerhouse, as they plated 14 runs on 20 hits as well as batted 7-22 (.318) with runners in scoring position and batted 6-23 (.260) with two outs.
Zach Britton Walks Off Rebels
Assisted by a 3-4, 3 RBI performance from junior shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald, the Cardinal Nine took the Rebels to extra innings where they won 4-3 in the tenth inning thanks to a clutch hit by Zach Britton. The victory in extra frames would move Louisville to 2-1 in extra inning games, with their second walk off win this season.
When playing a team like Ole Miss where their offense will get their fair share of hits and runs, it’s crucial to get off to a fast start to avoid falling behind to a point where you’re facing an almost insurmountable lead. The Cardinal Nine did just that, as it only took them two at-bats to plate the game’s first runs. Playing his second straight game at leadoff due to an injury to Lucas Dunn, left fielder Jake Snider connected for a base hit in the game’s first at-bat, and then shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald sent them both home on a towering 2 run home run. The round tripper gave the junior his 3rd home run of the season and his 17th and 18th RBIs of season, both team highs. Fitzgerald tacked on yet another RBI in the fifth, sending third baseman Justin Lavey home from third base on a perfectly executed squeeze play with two outs to have Louisville take a 3-0 advantage.
With the Ole Miss pitching staff responding to the early homer with a few scoreless innings, starting pitcher Luke Smith was busy tossing scoreless innings himself. The junior transfer from Parkland College had his longest outing in a Cardinal uniform, going 6.1 innings deep while tossing 4 strikeouts and not allowing the high powered Ole Miss offense to crack the scoreboard until the seventh inning.
However that seventh inning would be a productive one for the Rebels. They would tally 4 of their 6 base hits to this point in this inning, and put up a 3 spot in the inning to tie the game, chasing Smith out of the game. However newly inserted pitcher Michael Kirian would enter the game as a situational pitcher, and toss a pair of strikeouts to get out of the jam and end the inning.
After Kirian would pitch a scoreless eighth inning, a pair of pitchers would make an appearance in the last regulation inning. Sophomore left-hander Garrett Schmeltz would face the first two batters of the inning, with junior right-hander Michael McAvene taking on the final batter of the inning to set up for a potential walk-off in the bottom of the ninth.
But the fans would have to wait until extra innings to get to see some magic at the plate. With one out, Jake Snider would strike a deep triple that nearly left the park, then Ole Miss intentionally walked Tyler Fitzgerald and Logan Wyatt to load the bases. Coach Mac would counter Coach Bianco’s play with inserting catcher Zach Britton in a pinch hitting role, and the move was played to perfection. The sophomore would come through in the clutch and flair the ball down the right field line to allow Snider to come home and seal the walk-off victory.
W: Michael McAvene (1-0), L: Connor Green (3-1)
Tremendous Start Overcomes Late Rally To Complete Sweep
On a beautiful afternoon at Jim Patterson stadium, the Louisville Cardinals’ offense jumped out to a huge head start that helped to counter a rally attempt in the later innings of the game. Louisville scored 8 of the game’s first 10 runs, while Ole Miss scored 6 of the game’s last 8 runs. Fortunately, the Cards were able to bend but not break, and they completed the sweep of the Ole Miss Rebels on Elementary Day at the ballpark, taking them down 10-8 in the high scoring affair. Six of the starting position players drove runs in, including 2 by outfielder Danny Oriente and a career high 4 from third baseman Alex Binelas.
The first inning in today’s contest was so high powered that it chased both starting pitchers off in the very first inning. After not scoring until the seventh inning the day before, Ole Miss got off to a much quicker start. They rattled starting pitcher freshman Kerry Wright, plating the game’s first two runs and prompting a pitching change at the start of the next inning.
But Louisville was quick to respond, and they responded in a big way. The Cardinal Nine plated 8 runs over the next three innings including 5 in the opening frame. With the bases loaded in the first, outfielder Drew Campbell would reach base on a fielding error, and outfielder Danny Oriente, catcher Zeke Pinkham & third baseman Alex Binelas would all collect base hits with the latter sending two home. This would be Louisville’s 5th inning of 5 or more runs, and their 3rd over their last 4 games.
Zach Britton would follow up his late game heroics from the game prior with another clutch RBI base hit, this time in the second inning. Including today, the catcher/outfielder would go 4-11 with 5 RBI over his last four games. Also having a breakout game against the Rebels was freshman Alex Binelas. Only batting 2-19 with 2 RBI entering today’s game, he followed up his 2 RBI base hit in the first with his first career home run in the third inning. The two run blast would raise his RBI total on the game to 4, shattering his old career high of 1.
The Cards’ pitching staff had a few bounce back innings after Wright was chased out of the game. In 4.0 relief innings, left-hander Adam Elliott and right-hander Shay Smiddy combined for 5 strikeouts and allowed only 1 earned run. Ole Miss threatened with a huge inning in the top of the sixth when they loaded the bases with only 1 out against freshman right-hander Jared Poland, but a beautifully executed 1-2-3 double play prevented the Rebels from closing the gap.
Danny Oriente and Jake Snider both added insurance runs in the 5th and 6th innings respectively, pushing Louisville’s run total to 10 on the afternoon. This marked the sixth time that the Cards had plated double digit runs, posting a 6-0 record in those games. Those insurance runs were much needed, as Ole Miss would plate a pair in the eighth inning and launch a 2 home runs in the ninth against 2018 All-American Bobby Miller to cut the lead to just 2. But after a pep talk from Coach Mac, Miller was able to regain his composure and put away the Rebels for good.
W: Adam Elliott (1-1), L: Houston Roth (1-1)