Louisville upsets No. 15 UConn
Tenth-inning homer by Ijames lifts Cardinals to big victory
STORRS, Conn. – A 10th-inning, three-run homer by junior outfielder Stewart Ijames propelled Louisville to a dramatic 6-3 road win against No. 15 Connecticut in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at J.O. Christian Field.
With the win, the Cardinals improved to 26-26 overall and 12-12 in the Big East, while the Huskies dropped to 36-14-1 on the season and 20-4 in league games. After Saturday’s action, Louisville is seventh in the Big East standings, a half-game behind Cincinnati (12-11) and Notre Dame (12-11) in fifth place, a half-game ahead of eighth-place Seton Hall (11-12) and one game in front of ninth-place USF (11-13). Only the top eight teams in the regular season standings advance to the Big East tournament on May 25-29 in Clearwater, Fla.
With freshman outfielder Adam Engel on second, junior infielder Ryan Wright on first and two outs in a tie game, Ijames sent a 3-2 pitch from UConn reliever Dan Feehan over the wall in right center for his team-leading 11th home run of the season and the three-run advantage for the Cardinals. Freshman right-hander Jeff Thompson then entered from the Cardinals’ bullpen to record the final three outs in the bottom of the 10th and earn his first career save.
Thompson followed sophomore righty Andy Flett, who pitched 1.2 innings of shutout relief to earn the win and improve to 2-0 on the season. The Cardinals got a solid start from junior right-hander Travis Tingle, who allowed only three hits with a career-high seven strikeouts in a career-best 6.1 innings of shutout baseball.
For the Huskies, Feehan took the loss and dropped to 1-2 on the season after allowing three runs on just one hit with two walks and six strikeouts in 2.2 innings of relief. Freshman lefty Brian Ward got the no-decision for UConn after allowing three runs, including two earned, on five hits with eight strikeouts in 7.1 innings in the starting role.
The Cardinals opened the scoring in the third inning of Saturday’s game with a run on two hits against Ward. Freshman infielder Alex Chittenden led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman outfielder Cole Sturgeon. After advancing to third on single by Engel, Chittenden scored on an RBI sacrifice flyout by freshman catcher Kyle Gibson for the 1-0 lead. Engel finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored in the win.
After three scoreless innings, Louisville pushed its advantage to 2-0 in the seventh as sophomore infielder Cade Stallings sent a 1-1 pitch from Ward well beyond the wall in left field for his second home run of the season and his second in Saturday’s doubleheader.
The Huskies threatened to cut into the Cardinals’ lead in the bottom of the seventh as Ijames started the inning by making an outstanding leaping catch at the wall in right field to rob UConn’s George Springer of a home run. Connecticut followed that by loading the bases with only one out, but Louisville stopped the threat by going to its bullpen. Freshman lefty Cody Ege recorded the second out of the frame with a strikeout of pinch hitter Mike Friel, while freshman righty Chad Green followed by getting a groundout off the bat of shortstop Tom Verdi to end the inning.
Moments later, Louisville added an unearned run to increase its lead to 3-0 in the top of the eighth. Engel led off the inning with a single to left field, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gibson, advanced to third on a wild pitch by Feehan and scored on a passed ball by catcher Doug Elliott.
The Huskies finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth for three runs on four hits against three different Louisville pitchers to even the score. The inning started with a single by outfielder Billy Ferriter, who moved to third on a single by second baseman L.J. Mazzilli and scored on an RBI sacrifice fly to center by outfielder John Andreoli. After moving to second on a single by Springer, Mazzilli scored the second run of the inning on an RBI single through the right side by first baseman Mike Nemeth. The Huskies tied the score at 3-3 moments later when Springer, who moved to third on the single by Nemeth, scored on an RBI sacrifice fly to left by third baseman Ryan Fuller.
UConn threatened to end the game in the bottom of the ninth after loading the bases with no outs against Flett. However, the Louisville pitcher battled back to get an unconventional 6-2-5 double-play off the bat of Mazzilli for the first two outs of the inning and followed by forcing Andreoli into a flyout to right field to end the threat. From there, Louisville regained the lead for good in the following inning to take the final game of the weekend series.