Sophomore Brendan McKay had eight strikeouts and allowed just two hits on the mound while delivering three hits and two RBI at the plate to lead the No. 6 Louisville baseball team to a 15-2 series-opening win over No. 16 Clemson on Friday night at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Cardinals (27-7, 11-5 ACC) matched a season-high with 20 hits and scored in double figures for the 13th time this season, including the fourth time against an ACC foe. Friday’s result marked the worst loss for the Tigers (24-10, 8-8 ACC) since suffering an 18-1 defeat against Oregon in 2014. Louisville also improved to 21-1 at home this season.
A lefthander from Darlington, Pennsylvania, McKay worked seven strong innings surrendering a pair of runs while registering at least eight strikeouts for the seventh time this season and the 14th time in his collegiate career. McKay improved to 7-1 on the season with a 2.15 ERA and has 73 strikeouts in 58.2 innings this season and pushed his career record at Patterson Stadium to 13-0.
At the plate, McKay finished 3-for-5 with a triple, two RBI and two runs scored. Finishing with more hits at the plate than he allowed on the mound while also accounting for twice as many runs (two RBI, two runs scored) as he allowed (two earned runs), McKay has hit safely in a career best eight straight games with four of those being multi-hit performances and has lifted his season batting average to .317.
All nine starters in the Louisville lineup hit safely in Friday’s victory, including four different players finishing with three hits. Sophomore third baseman Blake Tiberi delivered his team-leading 19th multiple-hit game of the season going 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI, while sophomore third baseman Devin Hairston was 3-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored. Junior outfielder Corey Ray finished 3-for-4 with a double, one RBI and scored three runs.
The Cardinals started quickly on Friday night scoring three runs on four hits in the first inning against Clemson righty Clate Schmidt. Ray led off with a double to left center before scoring moments later on a throwing error by Schmidt on a failed pickoff attempt at second. Later in the inning, Tiberi drove McKay home with a two-out RBI single up the middle and senior Danny Rosenbaum followed with a RBI single to right to score Hairston, who slid around the tag attempt by catcher Chris Okey for the third run.
Clemson broke through for its first run of the night in the second inning when Weston Wilson tripled to center and scored on a RBI sacrifice fly to center by Chris Williams. Louisville answered in the third inning when Tiberi followed a one-out single off the bat of Hairston by sending a 2-1 pitch from Schmidt over the wall in right center for his sixth home run of the season and a 5-1 advantage.
After the Tigers cut into the margin with a RBI groundout by Chase Pinder in the fifth, Louisville responded with a three-run sixth inning. Sophomore catcher Colby Fitch started the scoring with a RBI sacrifice fly to center to send junior outfielder Colin Lyman home. Later in the inning, McKay drove junior outfielder Logan Taylor home with a two-out RBI single and Hairston followed with a RBI single to left to score Ray for the 8-2 lead.
Louisville kept the pedal down in the seventh inning scoring six runs on five hits. Ray singled home Lyman for the first run of the inning, while Fitch followed with a RBI groundout to score Taylor. Mann added a RBI double, McKay had a run-scoring triple, Hairston added a RBI single and Tiberi closed the inning with a run-scoring double for the 14-2 lead. Freshman Josh Stowers chipped in with a RBI single in the eighth inning to cap the scoring for the Cardinals.
Redshirt freshman righthander Chandler Dale followed McKay on the mound and delivered two innings of shutout relief for Louisville. Schmidt, one of seven Clemson pitchers on Friday, was charged with the loss and dropped to 5-2 on the season after allowing five runs on 10 hits in 2.1 innings.
The Cardinals and Tigers will continue their series on Saturday at 4 p.m., ET, while Sunday’s weekend finale is set for 1 p.m.
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