Cards, Ruxer stymie Ole Miss 4-3
Louisville's early 3-0 lead too much for UM to overcome
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Under the lights at Jim Patterson Stadium, Louisville shined. And the glow resulted in some much-needed two-out magic.
Playing their first night game at home of the season, the No. 25 Cardinals raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and used a solo home run from Zak Wasserman and gritty pitching from starter Jared Ruxer and a host of relievers to preserve a 4-3 victory Tuesday against No. 16 Mississippi.
The contest came down to the wire. Ole Miss (13-3) cut its deficit to 4-3 in the ninth off junior right-hander Matt Koch after pinch hitter Andrew Mistone doubled and pinch hitter Sikes Orvis plated him with a single. With one out, Louisville senior right-hander Derek Self entered with the tying run at second base. He induced a fly out to right field by Senquez Golson and, with a full count, got Alex Yarbrough to bounce back to him for an easy out and his fifth save of the season.
Coming off a disappointing weekend in the DRASH Alabama Classic where it lost two out of three games, Louisville (11-5) came out on a mission in the bottom of the first. Junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak, whose has been on a tear, singled on a flare to center and sophomore leftfielder Jeff Gardner flicked a single to left. After senior first baseman Stewart Ijames lined out to left, sophomore third baseman Ty Young drilled a two-out, two-run triple to right center that one-hopped the fence. Sophomore shortstop Alex Chittenden followed with another clutch hit, slapping an RBI single to right as the Cardinals built a 3-0 lead.
Wasserman's blast proved even more critical after Ole Miss chipped away at the Cardinals' advantage and had the chance to tie the game or go ahead in the ninth. With one out in the sixth inning, Wasserman belted a 2-2 pitch from Rebels starter Sam Smith (1-1) over the right field fence. Wasserman's third homer of the season upped Louisville's lead to 4-1 and turned out to be the decisive run.
Ruxer, a freshman, improved to 2-0 after making his second start of the season and second of his career. He allowed five hits and one earned run while striking out two in 5.2 innings. Five relievers followed Ruxer with mixed results. Freshman left-hander Joe Filomeno came on for Ruxer in the sixth with two on and two outs and retired Zach Kirksey.
Sophomore right-hander Dace Kime entered with two on and no outs in the seventh inning, allowing a single run to cross before getting out of the jam. In the eighth, sophomore Cole Sturgeon jogged in from the outfield with one on and one out and recorded a strikeout after walking a batter. Koch came on to notch the final out before Self relieved him during the ninth and secured the one-run victory.
Louisville collected 11 hits, with Ratajczak leading the way with a 4-for-4 outing. It was his second four-hit performance in the last four games, as he went 4-for-5 against Oral Roberts in the opening game in Alabama. Ratajczak is a sizzling 15-for-24 in his last six outings.
Young went 2-for-4 highlighted by his two-run triple. Sophomore centerfielder Adam Engel added two hits and Gardner, Chittenden and Wasserman chipped in one apiece. Blake Newalu had two hits for the Rebels, and six other players had one hit apiece. Smith allowed 10 hits and four earned runs while striking out four in six innings. Chris Ellis pitched two innings of scoreless relief.