No. 4 Louisville Baseball Rallies From Five-Run Deficit Against USC
Cardinals fire back with 10 unanswered runs in 13-6 comeback victory against Pac-12 foe
By Adam Pruiett, GoCards.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville baseball team had won by shutout, blowout, in tight nine-inning contests and a tense 14-inning affair.
On Tuesday at Jim Patterson Stadium, the No. 4 Cardinals won in a different fashion: by rallying from a large deficit. Down five early to visiting Southern Cal, Louisville roared back with 10 unanswered runs in a 13-6 victory as the Cardinals won their eighth straight game and topped the Trojans for the first time in program history.
The five-run deficit was the largest hole Louisville (17-2) has found itself in this season. The Cardinals were down three to both Morehead State on Feb. 26 and Alabama on March 10 before rallying to win. After USC (8-12) posted a five-spot in the second, Louisville immediately got three runs back in the bottom half before exploding for six runs in the sixth and four more in the eighth. The Cardinals sent eight batters to the plate in the second, 10 in the sixth and nine in the eighth.
Louisville racked up 16 hits, its third highest single-game total of the year. Junior catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) tied a career-high with three hits and had two RBI and two runs scored, while junior third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two walks. Senior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) added two hits and two RBI, senior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS) and junior rightfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) were both 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, and junior centerfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) chipped in two hits, two runs scored and an RBI.
Sophomore left-hander Kyle McGrath (Louisville, Ky./Eastern Kentucky/Butler HS) bumped his record to 3-0 with four terrific innings of relief. The southpaw didn't allow an earned run and struck out a Louisville career-best six while allowing two hits and no walks. Freshman right-hander Jonah Philley (Louisville, Ky./Eastern HS) followed with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief before giving way to Sturgeon, who induced a game-ending 4-6-3 double play to keep the Cardinals' winning streak intact.
Down 6-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Louisville seized the lead by scoring six runs on five hits. The first six Cardinals reached safely to start the frame, with pinch hitter Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) kicking off the rally with a walk. After Wasserman smacked his second double, sophomore shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa./Louisville Ballard HS) walked to load the bases and Engel lined an RBI single against newly inserted reliever Sean Silva. Ratajczak then laced an RBI single through the right side and Young gave Louisville its first lead at 7-6 with a two-run single to right. Ratajczak boosted the lead by scoring on a wild pitch, and Gibson capped the six-run frame by powering an RBI ground-rule double to left.
Louisville piled up four more runs in the eighth in scoring 10 straight runs without a response from USC. Sturgeon and Gibson both collected RBI singles and Whiting chipped in an RBI on a fielder's choice.
USC batted around in the second inning and erupted for five runs on six hits against Cardinals starter Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS). The big inning started on a double off the wall by shortstop Blake Lacey, and he scored on a one-out squeeze bunt by catcher Jake Hernandez. Rightfielder Greg Zebrack, second baseman Adam Landecker and first baseman James Roberts all followed with two-out, run-scoring hits, with Roberts plating two with a double for a 5-0 lead.
USC's hard charge didn't frazzle the Cardinals, who responded with three runs in the bottom half of the second. Like the Trojans, the Cardinals' outburst began with a double, as Gibson led off the frame against Trojans starter Kyle Davis with a drive down the left field line. He scored when Wasserman smashed a one-out double to center, and Whiting and Ratajczak both added RBI singles as Louisville began mounting its comeback bid.
Silva (0-1) suffered the loss after allowing two earned runs on three hits without recording an out. Starters Kime and Davis both pitched two innings, with Kime allowing five earned runs on seven hits and Davis three earned runs on six hits.
The two teams will meet in the second of the two-game series at 3 p.m., ET on Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium. Admission is free.
Postgame Louisville Notes
- Louisville's victory over USC was the first in six tries against the Trojans in the all-time series. It was the first contest between the two in Louisville.
- With 16 hits on Tuesday, Louisville reached double-digits in the hit column for the 13th time in 19 games, including four straight and five of six.
- Louisville scored 10 runs or better for the sixth time this season. Its highest output was 17 against Eastern Kentucky on Feb. 20.
- Louisville is 15-1 at home this season, including eight straight wins. The Cardinals are 195-71 (.733 winning percentage) all-time at Jim Patterson Stadium, which opened in 2005.
- Louisville's 16-run output came without a single successful stolen base. The Cardinals only attempted one theft, getting caught for only the 18th time in 84 attempts.
- The six runs Louisville allowed tied its second most of the season. Alabama scored seven against the Cardinals on March 10 in Louisville's 8-7 win in 10 innings.
- With two hits on Tuesday, Nick Ratajczak picked up his team-best 10th multi-hit game of the season.
- After four scoreless innings of relief, Kyle McGrath lowered his ERA this season to 0.75 in 12 innings pitched spanning eight appearances.