McKay, Cardinals Turn Back Irish
Louisville opens ACC Baseball Championship play with 10-3 win
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (theACC.com) – It is no secret that Brendan McKay is one of the nation’s top two-way college players, but the Louisville junior issued a not-so-subtle reminder as the Cardinals turned back Notre Dame, 10-3, in Thursday night’s ACC Baseball Championship game.
McKay hit a grand slam home run and earned the win on the mound as the Cardinals opened Pool A play before an appreciative crowd of 6,945 at Louisville Slugger Field.
The top-seeded Cardinals (47-9) will meet eighth-seeded Florida State (36-20) on Friday at 3 p.m., with the winner moving on to face ninth-seeded Duke (30-27) in Saturday’s 1 p.m. semifinal game. FSU took two games when the teams met last week to close the regular season, becoming the first opponent to win an ACC road series at Louisville since the Cardinals joined the conference prior to the 2015 season.
Notre Dame (26-32), seeded 12th in this year’s Championship field, ended its season with Thursday night’s loss.
McKay (9-3) worked six innings in his 14th pitching start of the season, allowing seven hits and three earned runs while walking four batters and striking out eight. The Darlington, Pennsylvania, native has recorded eight or more strikeouts in 27 of his career collegiate pitching appearances.
Louisville grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Drew Ellis tagged the first pitch he saw from Irish starter Michael Hearne (4-5) and sent it over the wall in left-center. It was the 17th home run of the season for the Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist and his third at Louisville Slugger Field. Ellis had two home runs versus Northern Kentucky in the Cardinals’ lone game at the minor league park during the regular season.
McKay delivered his grand slam in the top of the third, and the Fighting Irish were left to lament the fact that all of the damage came with two outs. Logan Taylor walked, Josh Stowers beat out an infield single and Hearne hit Devin Hairston with a pitch before McKay’s long drive to right upped Louisville’s lead to 5-0. The home run was McKay’s 16th of the season and his second grand slam.
The Irish didn’t fold. Matt Vierling answered with a two-run single in the bottom of the third, and then scored on a wild pitch in the fifth inning to trim the deficit to 5-3. Notre Dame just missed getting another when Cardinal left-fielder Stowers cut Eric Gilgenbach down at the plate with a perfect throw as he tried to score from second on a base hit by Eric Feliz.
But Hairston’s two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning pushed the Cardinals’ lead to 7-3, and Louisville (the home team geographically but the visiting team on the scoreboard) added its final three runs in the top of the ninth on Stowers’ RBI double and sacrifice flies by Hairston and Ellis.
Stowers finished the night 4-for-5 at the plate while scoring three runs, and Hairston had three RBIs. Vierling finished 3-for-5 to lead Notre Dame’s 11-hit attack.
Official release from ACC