The University of Louisville Baseball team has advanced to its 4th Super Regional in School History with a 4-1 victory over arch rival Kentucky Sunday night at Jim Patterson Stadium. The game was delayed 3:55 due to lightning in the area following Kentucky eliminating Kansas from the Regional 8-6 earlier in the day.
The Cards will be playing next weekend versus the winner of Alabama vs. Kennesaw State tomorrow in the Tallahassee Regional and will HOST the weekend Best of 3 series.
With the Regional victory, Dan McDonnell has now guided the Cards to 4 Super Regionals in 8 seasons. Prior to McDonnell’s arrival the Cardinals had made only ONE NCAA Tournament appearance (2003) in school history and didn’t win a NCAA Tournament game until McDonnell’s 1st season in 2007. Now the Cards will appear in back-to-back Super Regionals and have an opportunity for back-to-back trips to Omaha for the College World Series.
On Sunday, the Cards got a tremendous outing from Freshman Pitcher Josh Rogers. Rogers noted after the game that this wasn’t his 1st appearance on ESPN. That came when Rogers was 12 years old while in Little League when his New Albany Club was vying to compete in the 2007 Little League World Series. While it is doubtful that Rogers’ Little League experience helped him at all vs. the Wildcats, Josh looked extremely comfortable on the mound Sunday night going 6 IP, allowing 4 Hits, 1 Earned Run, and throwing 54 strikes on 81 pitches. Previously Rogers took the Loss in both regular season contests versus Kentucky, but tonight he looked much improved. Kentucky Head Coach Gary Henderson said, “His slider looked like it had more life to it than I remember.”
For much of the game the score was 1-0 in favor of the Cards, but the Cards left two bases loaded opportunities on the field without capitalizing and ended up with just 1 run to show for it. The 3rd, 4th, & 5th innings ended on double plays. It looked like missed opportunities could doom the Cards if Kentucky and it’s National Player of the Year AJ Reed could get its offense going. Louisville’s shift on Reed was extremely effective and the Cards held the phenom to an 0-4 night with a strikeout.
Things got interesting in the 7th inning when Kentucky pulled an extremely effective Logan Salow, another freshman pitcher who had a great night finishing with 6 IP, 5 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 4 strikeouts, and 95 pitches. Salow found his way out of several tight jams. Salow’s replacement Sam Mahar would not be so lucky. Mahar walked Louisville Shortstop Sutton Whiting, allowed a bunt single to Cole Sturgeon, then Mahar threw the ball over first baseman Thomas Bernal’s head on bunt force play which allowed DH Nick Solak to advance to 2nd, Sturgeon to 3rd and scoring Sutton Whiting. The only thing that did go right was a strikeout of Jeff Gardner (who had a brutal regional), but Alex Chittenden’s single to right field went on to score Sturgeon and advance Solak to 3rd base with runners on the corners.
At this point, Freshman Right Fielder Corey Ray hit a bomb in the left center gap to double, scoring Solak and advancing Chittenden to 3rd base. Mahar’s day was done, and Colin Lyman pinch hit for Danny Rosenbaum to face UK’s Zach Strecker. Lyman would hit into a fielder’s choice and a base running error caught Chittenden in a pickle between 3rd & home. Chittenden waited and allowed Lyman to advance to 2nd and Ray to 3rd before committing to home plate where a head first collision with Kentucky 1st Baseman Thomas Bernal’s knee. The benches cleared and coaches and umpires had to reign in the emotion of the moment, particularly of Kentucky Catcher Micheal Thomas who took major exception to Chittenden’s path to home plate through Bernal’s knee.
The bottom half of the 7th was just as entertaining. Kentucky’s Storm Wilson got on base after being hit by Josh Rogers just as rain began to fall. The Cards replaced Rogers with Jake Sparger who really did not look like he was taking to the wet conditions. Sparger slipped on the mound, threw a wild pitch, and walked Thomas Bernal and was quickly replaced by Kyle McGrath. Alex Chittenden dropped a foul ball & then Sutton Whiting threw off McGrath’s timing on a pickoff to 2nd base causing a balk and moved the runners to 2nd & 3rd. Matt Reida drove in Storm Wilson & advanced Bernal to 3rd base.
The next play would also be controversial as Kyle Barrett hit a liner to Cole Sturgeon and then proceeded to gun down Thomas Bernal. Bernal was ejected when he hit Louisville catcher Kyle Gibson high on the collision up the 3rd base line. Benches cleared briefly again, and the rivalry and scale of the game was clearly on full display. This was different than when Chittenden collided with Bernal previously in the inning because of the location of the collision. Major League Baseball has adopted the same rule for the 2015 season.
The Cards would end the 7th inning leading 4-1 and that would be the final score as Nick Burdi came on in the 9th inning and notched the Cardinals 99th consecutive win when leading after 8 innings.
2014 Louisville Regional All-Region Team
Pitcher-Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville)
Pitcher-Josh Rogers (Louisville)
C- Micheal Thomas (Kentucky)
1B- Cody Koch (Kent State)
2B- Zach Lucas (Louisville)
SS- Sutton Whiting (Louisville)
3B- Max Kuhn (Kentucky)
OF- Cole Sturgeon (Louisville)
OF- Corey Ray (Louisville)
OF- Austin Cousino (Kentucky)
DH- Tucker Tharp (Kansas)
Most Outstanding Player: Cole Sturgeon (Louisville)
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