By Jeff Milby–
On paper, the match-up between No. 2 baseball (39-6) and Miami (OH) was one-sided, but at Jim Patterson Stadium on March 2, it played out like a cat-and-mouse game. With Miami (19-27) racing out to a five-run lead, the Cardinals turned it on late behind two Devin Mann RBIs, a Brendan McKay home run and a Devin Hairston walk-off RBI single in the 10th inning to comeback and defeat the Redhawks, 6-5.
“It says a lot about our kids, that they don’t panic,” coach Dan McDonnell said. “It’s easy to get frustrated, it’s easy to get down on yourself … if we put together quality at-bats and do what we’ve been doing all year, we’ve got a chance.”
Miami got on the board in the top of the first inning. Lead-off man Tyler Harris scored from third on a Landon Stephens single.
In the third inning, the Redhawks added two more. Ross Haffey and Harris both scored as the result of another Stephens single, though Haffey scored on a Louisville throwing error.
It wouldn’t be the only Cardinal miscue on the day, as Louisville finished with three errors.
The Redhawks had runners on the corners with two outs in the sixth inning. A right-field single by Will Vogelesang brought home one runner and a throwing error allowed another.
With a 5-0 deficit in front of them and little offense to speak of, the Cardinal bats finally woke up in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Drew Ellis doubled and Mann’s single waved the junior in. Later in the inning, Colin Lyman reached second on a fielder’s choice and throwing error, and then scored on a Justin Lavey single.
Louisville drew even closer in the seventh. With two outs, McKay clubbed his team-high 14th home run to right-center field. Then, Mann and Ellis combined to score again, with the former doubling and the latter sending him home with an RBI single.
Mann, who finished the game with three hits and two RBIs, caught the eye of his coach. “The last month, he’s the Devin Mann we all know.”
In the eighth, the Cardinals completed the comeback on a wild pitch from Redhawk reliever Ryan Marske. With his first pitch of the game after coming in from the bullpen, Marske threw wide of his catcher, allowing Lyman to scamper home from third to tie the game at 5-5.
The game moved into extra innings, and Miami failed to get a hit in the top of the 10th inning. In the bottom half, Lavey was hit by hit a pitch and advanced to second on a sac-bunt. With two outs, Devin Hairston singled to left field and brought home Lavey for the 6-5 win.
“You hope to take these games as belief and trust, maybe that you need to do something special like this (to win) in the postseason,” McDonnell said.
Photos by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal