Freshmen played key roles for the 12th-ranked Louisville baseball team on Tuesday as lefty Josh Rogers pitched seven dominant innings and outfielder Colin Lyman delivered a pivotal two-run single to lead the Cardinals to a 3-1 win over Western Kentucky on Cancer Awareness Night at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Rogers (New Albany, Ind.) allowed just one run on only three hits with five strikeouts and one walk while working a career-best 7.0+ innings to earn his first career collegiate win for the Cardinals (29-11). Improving to 1-2 overall on the mound in his fifth start, Rogers surpassed his previous career long outing of six innings at Purdue on April 8.
With two outs and the bases loaded in a scoreless game in the fifth inning, Lyman (Algonquin, Ill.) connected on a 1-1 offering from WKU (21-20) reliever Sam Higgs sending it into centerfield to score junior shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa.) and junior first baseman Grant Kay (Omaha, Neb.) for the 2-0 lead. That was enough scoring for Louisville as senior lefty Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky.) struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief before junior righty Nick Burdi recorded the final three outs of the game to earn his ninth save of the season.
The Hilltoppers broke through for their only run of the night in the top of the eighth when outfielder Regan Flaherty singled to left off Rogers to lead off the inning and then scored moments later on a RBI double to left center by catcher Ryan Messex off junior righty reliever Jonah Philley (Louisville, Ky.). With the tying run at second and no outs, Sturgeon entered from righty field and shut down the threat with back-to-back swinging strikeouts and a groundout.
Louisville added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when senior third baseman Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind.) scored from third on a perfectly executed RBI squeeze bunt to the right side by freshman outfielder Logan Taylor (Lexington, Ky.). Chittenden, who was 2-for-3 at the plate, led off the inning with a double to right center and moved to third on a flyout to right by freshman catcher Will Smith (Louisville, Ky.).
The Cardinals’ two-run fifth inning started with a single through the right side by Whiting. After advancing to second with his team-leading 24th stolen base of the season, Whiting took third on an infield single by Kay. A walk to senior outfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky.) loaded the bases before Lyman’s single.
Higgs was charged with the loss and dropped to 4-4 on the season after allowing two runs, both earned, on three hits in three innings of relief. Freshman lefty starter Ryan Thurston worked three innings for the Hilltoppers scattering three hits and three walks without allowing a run.
Up next, Louisville will continue its six-game homestand with a visit from Morehead State on Wednesday at 6 p.m., ET in a game previously scheduled for Feb. 26 but postponed due to inclement weather.
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Louisville Postgame Notes
– The Cardinals swept the two midweek games with the Hilltoppers this season and have won three straight overall in the series for the longest winning streak for either team since Louisville won six straight from 2008 to 2011.
– Dating back to 2012, Louisville has won 81 straight games when entering the ninth inning with a lead and is 26-0 this season when leading after the eighth inning.
– The Cardinals have held opponents to two or fewer earned runs in 22 of 40 games this season.
– Finishing with a 7-5 edge in hits on Tuesday, Louisville improved to 22-2 this season when out-hitting its opponent.
– Ranked fourth in the nation in stolen bases per game (2.05) entering the week, the Cardinals added four more on Tuesday night.
– Louisville played error-free baseball defensively for the 14th time this season and improved to 12-2 overall in those contests.
– Tuesday marked the second time in his last three starts Josh Rogers has allowed one run while working at least six innings after accomplishing the feat at Purdue.
– Nick Burdi continues to add to this school record for career saves locking down his 25th on Tuesday night.
– In 17 appearances and 20.1 innings pitched this season without allowing an earned run, Burdi has 34 strikeouts to just seven walks while opponents are hitting just .132.
– With his stolen base in the fifth inning, Grant Kay improved to 18-for-18 in steals this season.
– Cole Sturgeon matched a career-high with two stolen bases on Tuesday night.
– Tuesday marked the fourth annual Cancer Awareness Night at Jim Patterson Stadium with the Cardinals wearing special black jerseys and hats featuring pink lettering during the game.