Junior Brendan McKay registered nine strikeouts in six shutout innings on the mound and added a home run at the plate to lead the No. 6 Louisville baseball team to a 7-0 victory over Alabama State on opening day at Spectrum Field.
McKay allowed just four hits and did not issue a walk in earning his 22nd career collegiate win, tied for fourth all-time at Louisville. Friday’s performance, which clinched the fourth straight season-opening victory for the Cardinals, marked the 19th time McKay has finished with eight or more strikeouts in a game. The two-time John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year was 2-for-3 with two RBI, including his 11th career home run.
“It was solid work for me and a good start to the season for our team,” McKay said. “Early on, I was locating my fastball in and out pretty well and I was throwing the curveball for strikes. All in all, it was a balanced performance for us on the mound, at the plate and defensively.”
Righthander Bryan Hoeing made his collegiate debut ringing up two strikeouts in three perfect innings of relief to earn the save. Hoeing and McKay combined to clinch Louisville’s first opening day shutout since a 4-0 victory against Northwestern State in 2007. Last season, the Cardinals set a school record with 11 shutouts.
“It was what you expect from the Friday guy. In Coach Williams’ system, it’s about pitching off the fastball, attacking the zone and letting your defense work and that’s what Brendan and our team did today,” said Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell, in his 11th season at the helm. “I’m really happy for Bryan (Hoeing). It was a long time and he’s worked hard for this. I was happy that he attacked the zone, he was aggressive with his fastball and he threw some good breaking balls.”
At the plate, junior Colby Fitch was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer to right field and senior Logan Taylor was 2-of-3 with one RBI and two stolen bases as the Cardinals finished with a 12-4 advantage in hits against the Hornets. Junior Devin Hairston chipped in with two hits and scored once, while junior Drew Ellis singled, walked and drove in a run for Louisville.
“We feel like we have balance in our offense and you don’t want to rely on just McKay or only one player every game,” said McDonnell. “We think, one through nine, we should have balance and hopefully, guys don’t put too much pressure on themselves. All the way around, I thought it was a pretty good game for our guys.”
Louisville opened the scoring in the second inning on a RBI single to right by Ellis, while McKay pushed the lead to 2-0 in the third on a RBI single to right. McKay led off the fifth inning by belting a 1-1 offering from ASU starter Tyler Howe over the right field wall. Later in the frame, freshman Tyler Fitzgerald drove Hairston home with a RBI sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals added to the lead in the sixth inning when Fitch sent a 2-0 pitch on to the berm in right center to plate freshman Jake Snider, who singled in his first career at-bat earlier in the frame. Louisville’s final run of the night scored in the seventh on a RBI single off the bat of Taylor.
The No. 6 Cardinals will continue the weekend against No. 22 Maryland on Saturday at 6 p.m., ET at Spectrum Field before closing the weekend against Ball State on Sunday at 1 p.m.
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