In the 8th annual Battle of the Barrel against the #2 Vanderbilt Commodores (39-9), the #3 Louisville Cardinals (39-10, 18-6) fell short 6-2 in a game where their red-hot offense was stifled for a majority of the night. The Cardinal Nine plated 2 runs for only the second time in their last 19 games, despite 8 of their 9 starters registering a base hit.
The first couple innings in the Battle of the Barrel were largely a pitcher’s duel, as Vanderbilt starter Mason Hickman and Louisville starter freshman Jack Perkins both did solid jobs to open the game. Both pitchers were bending but not breaking, with each striking out a single batter over the first two frames. But once the lineup card turned over for each team in the third inning, they were able to adjust and respond.
Vanderbilt struck first in the top of the inning, plating a pair of runs courtesy of an RBI groundout and RBI single, but Louisville wasn’t far behind. Facing two outs, senior catcher Zeke Pinkham gave the Cards their first hit of the game with a double down the left field line, with leadoff man sophomore Lucas Dunn sending him home on a base hit that flared up the middle.
Once Jack Perkins matched his career high in innings pitched, head coach Dan McDonnell decided to call on the bullpen for the rest of the game. Junior left-hander Adam Elliott was the first to receive the call, and he arguably had the best performance of the night on the mound for the Cards. He tossed 2.1 scoreless innings and matched his season high in strikeouts with 3.
After the game eclipsed the half-way point of the evening, Louisville made it a brand new ball game. Doubles from both preseason All-American Logan Wyatt and designated hitter Danny Oriente in the bottom of the sixth would tie the game up at 2 runs a piece. This would be Oriente’s 13th double of the season, putting him at a tie for team lead with junior shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald.
Junior RHP Shay Smiddy would relief Elliott one his day was done, but he would only last a single inning on the mound. Working himself into a one-out jam with a runner on second in the seventh inning, he would get the early hook in favor of sophomore southpaw Michael Kirian. Facing Vandy’s two best hitters, he made short work of them as he struck out Austin Martin and forced J.J. Bleday to groundout.
The next inning would not be so kind to Kirian, as he was yanked in the eighth before even recording an out. Inserted into a runners on the corners jam, pitcher Michael McAvene would also struggle with the Commodores. The junior would walk to load the bases, then surrender a 2 RBI double at the hands of second baseman Harrison Ray to break the 2-2 tie.
Things went downhill for Louisville in the ninth, as the Cards tried everything they could to prevent Vanderbilt from continuing to score. The final inning saw four pitching changes, with Cardinals pitchers allowing two bases loaded walks to extend the Commodores’ lead. Louisville could not respond to any of the late inning runs plated by Vanderbilt, sealing the 6-2 loss.
W: Michael Kirian (2-1), L: AJ Franklin (1-0)
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