By Matt Bradshaw —
For its 500th game at Jim Patterson Stadium, No. 8 baseball (23-6, 9-3) worked past rival Kentucky (16-13, 1-8) with relative ease. Louisville fell behind early in the game 2-0, then followed with a barrage of runs for an 8-3 victory.
“It’s a rivalry game, so it’s gonna be a tough one,” head coach Dan McDonnell said, referring to Kentucky loading the bases late in the game. “It’s always gonna be close, and they made it interesting there at the end. Fortunately, our bullpen was really good tonight. We got some big hits. One day it’s Oriente, one day it’s Britton, many days it’s Wyatt, but today it was Jake Snider. That’s the reason we’re having the success we’re having, is a different guy steps up just every game and that gives you a chance.”
The Cardinals have won 10 of their last 12 games against the Wildcats, including eight straight at home. This is not to mention U of L’s six-game winning streak at the midpoint of the current season.
Kentucky, on the other hand, has struggled of late. The Cats are 3-9 in their last 12 games, though they still hold the all-time advantage in the rivalry at 63-45.
Junior Jake Snider led the way at the plate for Louisville, batting 2-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs. Junior lefty Adam Elliot (2-1) got the win on the mound, allowing zero runs and striking out three.
“It’s a huge morale boost,” Snider said about his triple off the wall that helped tie the game. “It’s a really tight game. Everybody’s already bringing a lot of energy, obviously, with everything that’s going on with this game. But to get the energy back after we gave up two in the third, it’s huge. Then the guy on the mound can go back out there with not as much stress.”
Jim Patterson himself, along with coaching legend Denny Crum, were in attendance for the Louisville victory.
Kentucky notched the first hit of the day with a double in the top of the third. Luke Smith, junior starter for Louisville, loaded the bases with a walk and hit-by-pitch. The Wildcats followed with a 2-RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
Louisville wasted no time in the bottom of the inning, tying the game with the help of its junior class. Drew Campbell reached first on an error, Ethan Stringer RBI doubled and Snider slammed an RBI triple off the wall for a 2-2 score.
Smith ran into trouble in the top of the fourth, struggling to nail the strike zone and putting runners on first and second with no outs.
Lefty Elliot replaced Smith and quickly found success. Elliot tallied two straight strikeouts, then threw out a UK batter who tried to place a bunt down the third base line.
U of L kept the runs coming in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Zeke Pinkham RBI singled and Stringer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for two straight runs. Snider continued his stellar day at the plate with a 2-RBI single that dropped into right field, bringing Louisville’s lead to 6-2.
Campbell widened the lead to 7-2 with a RBI double in the bottom of the fifth. Snider scored off a Kentucky error in the sixth inning for an 8-2 lead.
Senior Bryan Hoeing replaced Elliot on the mound in the sixth, allowing one run in his 2.1 innings. Sophomore lefty Michael Kirian then took the reins and struck out four of the six batters he faced to close out game, sealing the 8-3 victory.
The Cardinals are approaching a difficult section of the schedule. Of their 13 opponents, eight rank in the RPI top 100 with three in the top 20 (Clemson, NC State and Vanderbilt).
Moreover, Louisville is neck-and-neck with NC State and Clemson at the top of their division in the ACC. Across the next two weeks, the Cards will face both opponents at their own ballparks in a pair of three-game series.
If the Cards can top both series, they stand a strong chance of favorable seeding in the ACC Championship. Clemson approaches first on Friday, April 5 at 6 p.m.
Louisville faces Kentucky in the second round of the Battle of the Bluegrass in Lexington on Tuesday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m.
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Photos by Jessica Abell / The Louisville Cardinal