By Dalton Ray–
A pair of home runs by junior Drew Ellis elevated baseball past rival Kentucky in the NCAA Super Regional, advancing the Cardinals to the College World Series.
Junior Brendan McKay (10-3) went 6.2 innings and sat down nine. Senior Logan Taylor went 2-for-4 with a RBI and junior Colby Fitch went 3-for-5 with a RBI.
Expected to be a pitching duel, McKay and Kentucky’s Sean Hjelle (11-4) played to their defense early. Four of the first seven outs were fly outs as the aces settled in.
Ellis battled with Hjelle in the top of the second inning and on the sixth pitch of the at bat Ellis went yard to left field. Junior Devin Hairston singled to follow Ellis, but a pair of ground outs ended the inning.
Leading 1-0 in the bottom of the second, Louisville got a new all-time strikeout leader in McKay with his first K of the afternoon.
Both teams traded singles in the third and fourth innings, but nothing came of it.
A single from Fitch in the top of the fifth advanced Taylor to third base. Sophomore Devin Mann waved in Taylor with a sac-fly to right center.
A double and hit by pitch put two runners on for UK in the bottom of the inning. A sac-fly from Marcus Carson plated Kentucky’s first run of the game. Heading to the sixth inning, the Cats trailed 2-1.
Ellis rocked Hjelle again in the top of the sixth inning, smashing his 20th home run of the season. Hjelle walked junior Devin Hairston next and was soon replaced by Zach Pop.
Sophomore Josh Stowers wasted no time getting to know Pop, tripling off his first pitch and driving home Hairston.
A hit by pitch and walk loaded the bases but another Kentucky pitching change took place. Fitch hit into a double play, ending the threat.
Back-to-back singles started the bottom of the sixth inning for UK and a balk moved both runners to second and third base. With two runners in scoring position and one out, McKay responded with two strikeouts to end the jam.
Kentucky’s Troy Squires singled to start the bottom of the seventh and a wild pitch advanced him to second base. Tyler Marshall singled to center field, putting runners on the corners with no outs for the Wildcats.
McKay answered with his ninth strikeout and a pop up in the in field gave the Cards two outs. UK lead-off man Tristian Pompey singled to center field and sliced into the U of L lead. Sophomore Sam Bornder replaced McKay after the RBI made the Louisville lead 4-2.
A walked loaded the bases for UK but Bordner bounced back with a strikeout to end the inning.
With two outs in the eighth inning, freshman Tyler Fitzgerald was walked. Taylor’s RBI double made the lead 5-2. Fitch kept the scoring going as his single dropped between three Wildcats in the out field.
Kentucky failed to score a run in the bottom of the inning.
An error allowed Ellis to reach to the start ninth and Hairston belted a shot to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Louisville loaded the bases with two outs but Taylor struck out and UK ended the threat.
With one on and no outs in the final at bat, Taylor hawked down a ball in the out field that led him running into the wall. A strikeout and fly out ended the game.
Louisville (52-10) set a school record for wins with their sweep of UK. U of L earns their fourth trip to Omaha after back-to-back losses in the Super Regionals in 2015 and 2016.
Photos by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal