By Daniel Rankin —
The University of Louisville Baseball team wrapped up another ACC weekend by taking two of three intense games against the North Carolina Tarheels.
With the series victory, The No. 4-ranked Cardinals improve to a record of 23-8 on the season and a 9-3 ACC record.
Game 1 – Fri., April. 8
The series got off to a rough start for the Cards, losing 13-9 after falling behind early. The Tarheels exploded from the start putting up nine runs in the first three innings.
Ben Bianco’s solo shot and Cameron Masterman’s three-run homer helped chip the deficit in the bottom of the third. However, the Tarheels responded quickly with three runs in the fourth and a final run in the fifth.
The use of the long ball this season continued this series as Dalton Rushing and Jack Payton added a pair of back-to-back home runs to a four-run eighth inning, cutting the UNC lead to four. Despite late momentum and solid relief pitching, the Cards couldn’t get any closer, dropping the first game.
Game 2 – Sat., April. 9
The Cardinals were able to rebound on the Saturday afternoon matchup, winning on an exciting walk-off home run. Once again, the Tarheels jumped to an early lead with two runs in the second inning.
However, the Cards responded much better than the previous night. Dalton Rushing started the Cardinals’ response in the fourth inning after launching a 2-1 pitch over 400 feet.
A few at-bats later, Ben Bianco found himself hitting with the bases loaded. Like many times over his Louisville career, the senior delivered, driving a grand slam over the leftfield wall giving the Cards the 5-2 lead. Isaac Humphrey extended the lead in the bottom of the fifth by singling Jack Payton in.
The two teams traded one run in the sixth inning, making the score 7-3 in the seventh. Despite the Cardinals adding one run in the seventh thanks to Bianco, it wasn’t enough as the Tarheels mounted a late-game comeback. Down to their final two outs of the game, The Tarheels tied the game after a dropped flyball in the outfield.
Headed into extra innings, Pitcher Michael Prosecky, after a heartbreaking ninth, came out and shut down the Tarheels giving Louisville the chance to win.
After a full count battle, Ben Metzinger hit his second walk-off home run of the season, giving the Cards the 9-8 victory to tie the series.
Game 3 – Sun., April. 10
In an intense and unique marathon that lasted over seven hours, the Cardinals took the series’ rubber match in the 14th inning against the Tarheels.
For the third straight game, the Tarheels ran out to the early lead in the second inning. Humphrey continued his strong series by tying the game after scoring Levi Usher.
North Carolina put together a strong run in the third inning and jumped out to a 5-1 lead, putting the Cards in yet another deficit.
The two sides remained scoreless going into the sixth inning when the game was delayed following a stadium evacuation. After a two-hour delay, the game was finally resumed.
Heading into the ninth inning, the Cardinals were still down 5-1. Ben Bianco started the inning off with a one-run blast to bring the lead within three. Following a walk from Christian Knapczyk and Rushing and a single from Metzinger, Jack Payton had the opportunity to possibly win the game with the bases loaded.
A wild pitch allowed Knapczyk to score, bringing the game within two until Payton finally tied the game on a base hit. Logan Beard had the opportunity to win the game, but Payton was thrown out at home, sending the game to extra innings.
The two teams were scoreless until the bottom of the 14th inning when Humphrey singled home Beard to win the game and the series for the Cardinals.
Overall, this was a solid series for the No. 4 Cardinals. The first game wasn’t ideal, with the pitching showing repeats of early-season slumps. However, solid bullpen work in the final two games allowed the powerful Louisville offense to shine once again.
Up next for the Cardinals is a matchup with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats April 12, at 6 p.m.
Photo by Daniel Rankin // The Louisville Cardinal