Drew Ellis delivered a pair of home runs while Brendan McKay pitched superbly into the seventh inning to lead the No. 7 national seed Louisville baseball team to a 6-2 triumph against Kentucky in game two of the NCAA Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium on Saturday afternoon and clinch the program’s fourth College World Series berth.
The Cardinals (52-10), who were playing in their fifth straight NCAA Super Regional overall and their fourth consecutive at home, have earned each of their four trips to Omaha (2007, 2013, 2014) during the last 11 seasons under the direction of head coach Dan McDonnell. Saturday’s victory also set a school record for single season wins for Louisville surpassing the 51 wins by the 2013 College World Series squad.
Louisville will face the winner of the College State Super Regional (Texas A&M or Davidson) in its opening game at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on either Saturday (June 17) or Sunday (June 18). The complete schedule for the 2017 College World Series will be announced in the coming days.
Ellis capped an impressive two games in the NCAA Super Regional by finishing 3-for-4 overall at the plate, highlighted by the two solo home runs. The junior infielder from Jeffersonville, Indiana was 4-for-8 with three home runs and six RBI in the two wins against the Wildcats (43-23). In his six career games against Kentucky during the last two seasons, Ellis was 10-for-21 with four home runs, three doubles and 16 RBI. For the season, Ellis leads the Cardinals with a .367 batting average, 20 home runs, 61 RBI and a .729 slugging percentage.
On the mound, McKay finished with nine strikeouts while allowing two runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings to earn victory and improve to 10-3 on the season. The junior from Darlington, Pennsylvania, who set a school record for single season strikeouts at 140 with Saturday’s outing, moved to 31-10 in his collegiate career to go with a 2.15 ERA and a school record 385 career strikeouts. The 2017 Baseball America National Player of the Year also improved to 21-3 at Patterson Stadium during his three seasons at Louisville.
Following McKay’s stellar work in the starting role, sophomore righthander Sam Bordner closed out the triumph registering three strikeouts in 2.1 innings of shutout relief for his third save of the season. The Baltimore, Ohio native lowered his season ERA to just 0.47 on Saturday and increased his strikeout total to 35 in 38.2 innings and 21 appearances this season.
Along with Ellis’ work at the plate, the Cardinals were paced offensively by senior outfielder Logan Taylor, who was 2-for-4 with a double, one RBI and two runs scored. The Lexington, Kentucky native closed the two-game Super Regional 3-for-7 with two doubles, two walks and four runs scored. Devin Hairston, another Lexington product, was 3-for-4 with a run scored and Colby Fitch was 3-of-5 with a RBI.
The Cardinals struck first on Saturday after Ellis connected on a solo home run in the second inning against UK starter Sean Hjelle. Ellis sent a 2-2 offering over the wall in left center for his 19th home run of the season.
Louisville added to the advantage in the top of the fifth inning when Taylor scored from third on a RBI sacrifice fly by Devin Mann for the 2-0 cushion. Taylor started things with a one-out walk and moved to third on a single through the right side by Fitch before going home on Mann’s flyout to right center.
After the Wildcats cut the margin in half in the bottom of the fifth with a RBI sacrifice fly from Marcus Carson to score Riley Mahan, the Cardinals answered with a pair of runs in the sixth to push the lead to 4-1. Ellis opened the inning by powering a 0-1 pitch from Hjelle over the left field wall for his second home run of the day. Hairston followed with a walk before scoring the second run on a RBI triple down the left field line by Josh Stowers on the first pitch from reliever Zach Pop.
Kentucky narrowed the gap with a run in the seventh inning on a RBI single to center by Tristan Pompey to plate Troy Squires. The Wildcats threatened for much more in the inning loading the bases with two outs, but Bordner struck out Zach Reks to end the inning.
The Cardinals used a two-out rally in the eighth inning to add a pair of insurance runs and push the margin to 6-2. Tyler Fitzgerald started things with a two-out walk against Logan Salow before scoring on Taylor’s two-out, two-strike RBI double over the head of Reks in left field. Fitch followed with a RBI single to right center to send Taylor home for the second run of the inning.
The 2017 College World Series festivities begin Friday at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha with the open practices for each of the eight teams throughout the day before the opening ceremonies later in the evening.