The Louisville Cardinals baseball team went 2-2 on the week winning the series against Memphis 2-1 in exciting fashion and dropping a game to the University of Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday. A very exciting Sunday afternoon was capped by a great comeback and a walk-off single. There was a good showing from the Cardinal faithful and some great weather.
CARDINALS FALL TO CATS
The University of Kentucky's Cliff Hagan Stadium saw it's fourth largest crowd in stadium history on Tuesday night in the game against the Cardinals. The Cardinals struck first and looked good after a two run homerun from catcher Kyle Gibson (his first of the year) in the top of the second inning. The Cats got back in the game quickly scoring two runs in the bottom of the second. The biggest problem the Cardinals had Tuesday night was getting runs with the runners in scoring position. Louisville loaded the bases twice in the game with the Cats and were only able to get one run out of it. Some shaky pitching from the Cardinals sealed the deal with two home runs that combined for four runs for the University of Kentucky. The Cardinals dropped the game 8-3.
The Cardinals got off to an early lead Friday night against the Memphis Tigers hitting well and getting some great pitching from Sophomore RHP Kyle Funkhouser. Jeff Gardner, Zach Lucas, and Colin Lyman were three of the four runs that crossed in the first inning and got the Cardinals off to a 4-0 start. A two run homerun by Memphis cut the lead to 4-2 in the second inning and an RBI by Grant Kay got the Cardinals another run to make it 5-2. "Funk" started struggling near the sixth inning and was replaced by Cole Sturgeon who gave up two runs to make it 5-4. All-American Nick Burdi entered the game for the Cardinals in the eighth inning and earned his fifth save of the season after a great play by shortstop Sutton Whiting. In a post-game interview Whiting had some interesting comments. Whiting said, "Well the inning before I made the play I lost my glove so I had to use my buddies glove and I think maybe I got some luck from using it." Thankfully Sutton lost that glove of his or the Cardinals may have dropped game one to the Tigers.
Saturday was a slow game for both teams, but especially for the Cardinals. The Louisville baseball team didn't even get a runner passed second base until the bottom of the eighth inning. Jeff Gardner had the game tying two run single in the eighth inning and the Cardinals had some momentum heading into the ninth. The Memphis Tigers got a run in the ninth inning and the Cardinals were unable to strike back dropping game two.
THE COMEBACK CARDINALS
Sunday afternoon featured a very exciting game at Jim Patterson Stadium. It wasn't looking good for the Cardinals as they trailed virtually the entire game. Anthony Kidston struggled to find the zone early and his day was finished by the third inning. In total 22 players were used in the Sunday game, which was a season high for the Cardinals. The crowd began to dwindle as the No. 8 Louisville baseball team trailed 7-1 in the seventh inning. Finally some action with the bats came in the bottom of the eighth when two scores came from Sturgeon and Solak with two outs to cut the lead for the Tigers to 7-3. The Cardinals held in the ninth and needed some offensive help to get back and complete the comeback. The bases were loaded with big hitter Jeff Gardner at the plate. Gardner then singled to first which scored a run making it 7-4. With runners at second and third a huge single by Zach Lucas came and scored two more to make it 7-6. Colin Lyman then came in to pinch run for Lucas with freshman utility man Will Smith up to bat. Faced with adversity and pressure Will Smith drove a deep ball to left field, which scored Lyman and tied the game at 7-7 completing the comeback, but it wasn't nearly over for the Cardinals.
All-American RHP Nick Burdi showed us some impressive pitching in extra innings and there wasn't much action from either team until the 12th inning of play when yet again Will Smith was in place to make something big happen after being hit by a pitch and advancing to second on a wild pitch. A perfectly placed bunt by Danny Rosenbaum landed Will Smith on third base with one out and it was looking good for the Cardinals. The reliable Alex Chittenden was then asked to make the next move for the Cardinals and he did not falter. A walk-off single by Alex Chittenden won it for the Cardinals in the bottom of the 12th inning.
POST-GAME WITH WILL SMITH
After an impressive performance from the freshman utility player on Sunday afternoon, I was able to speak with Will Smith personally about his performance.
Q. You're a true freshman; it's the bottom of the ninth inning, what's going through your head as you get to the plate?
A. Just got to try and put a good swing on it, there are men on second and third with the tying run on second and luckily I got that hit. The big double, so yeah…
Q. I've seen you playing mostly catcher so far, would you say you feel most comfortable playing catcher?
A. Uh yeah, I'm comfortable at catcher. I never did much of it in high school, but I'm liking it now and I'm learning a lot so yeah I'd say I'm most comfortable there.
Q. I know you used to do a fair share of pitching in high school and even in Little League over at St. Matthews, would you say you might be able to pitch here at Louisville?
A. *chuckles* I think I can I haven't got on the mound in awhile, but I feel I could throw strikes and compete so yeah…
Q. So did you get talked into the walk-up song by the older guys, or are you just a Will Smith fan?
A. *more laughter* No I got talked into it, but I like it so yeah… Jeff Gardner was the main guy pushing for that (for those who don't know, Will's walk up song is Get Jiggy With It by the other slightly more famous Will Smith).
The next four games will be on the road for the Cardinals as they visit Purdue on Tuesday and have a weekend series down at Houston to cap off the week. The Cardinals will then get a chance to redeem themselves against the University of Kentucky Wildcats at home on March 15th.