The fifth-ranked Louisville baseball team’s attempt at sweeping regular season and postseason conference titles fell short on Sunday at Bright House Field with a 10-4 loss to No. 12 Houston in the title game of the 2014 American Conference Championship.
The Cardinals (45-15) will now await their NCAA postseason fate when the field of 64 teams and regional pairings for the 2014 NCAA Championship are announced on Monday at noon ET on ESPNU. The 16 NCAA Regional hosts will be released later this evening at approximately 9 p.m., ET.
After sweeping its three-game series at Houston in April, Sunday was not Louisville’s day as they were out-hit 16-11, committed a pair of fielding errors and grounded into three double-plays in the first four innings. The Cardinals were attempting to match their 2009 accomplishment when they won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Big East Conference.
On a tough day for the Louisville offense, freshman designated hitter Nick Solak (Woodridge, Ill.) continued his hot streak going 3-for-3 with one RBI and a walk. In four starts at the American Championship, Solak was 9-for-13 (.692) with six RBI, five runs scored and two stolen bases. Senior outfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky.) chipped in with a single and a run driven in, while senior catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky.) singled, was hit by a pitch and scored twice. All three players were named to the All-Tournament Team following the completion of the championship.
The Cougars struck first on Sunday plating a run in the top of the first against freshman lefty Drew Harrington (Elizabethtown, Ky.) on a RBI groundout by catcher Caleb Barker. Louisville answered in the bottom of the first to even the score at 1-1 on a RBI sacrifice fly to left by Gardner to plate Gibson.
Houston moved back ahead with a run in the third inning when outfielder Kyle Survance scored from third on a bases loaded double-play off the bat of Barker. The Cougars pushed the lead to 3-1 in the fourth on a RBI single down the left field line by second baseman Josh Vidales and added another run in the top of the fifth inning on another RBI single for Vidales.
Louisville cut into the deficit in the bottom of the fifth on an infield RBI single by Solak to score Gibson, who singled earlier in the frame. However, Houston answered in the sixth with a three-spot to push the advantage to 7-2. After a wild pitch from lefty reliever Kyle McGrath (Louisville, Ky.) scored the first run, first baseman Casey Grayson delivered a two-run double down the left field line to plate Survance and outfielder Landon Appling.
The Cougars plated their final three runs of the day in the top of the ninth on another RBI single for Vidales and a two-run single by Grayson. Louisville added its final two runs of the game in the bottom of the ninth on solo home runs from senior Shane Crain (Lexington, Ky.) and junior Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa.), the second of the season for each.
On the mound, Harrington was charged with his second loss of the season and dropped to 3-2 overall for the Cardinals after allowing three runs on six hits with a career-high six strikeouts and two walks in three innings. A total of seven Louisville pitchers combined to allow a season-high for hits allowed while matching a season-high for runs allowed.
Reliever Tyler Ford earned the win for the Cougars and improved to 8-0 on the season after allowing two runs on two hits in 4.1 innings of work out of the bullpen. Starter David Longville earned a no-decision after allowing two runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings. Vidales finished 5-for-5 at the plate with three RBI and a run scored and named as the Most Outstanding Player of the championship.
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