June 5, 2010

*Courtesy of Louisville Athletics

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Fueled by strong pitching from Matt Koch and Neil Holland, and a key three-run homer in the first inning by Phil Wunderlich, the No. 7 national seed Louisville baseball team powered into the championship game of the 2010 NCAA Regional with a 7-1 win over 17th-ranked Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.

With the win, Louisville improves to 50-12 overall and will play on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET at Jim Patterson Stadium against the winner of Sunday's noon elimination game between Vanderbilt (42-18) and Illinois State. Saturday's win also clinched the first 50-win season in Louisville baseball history. Tickets are still available for Sunday's NCAA Regional games and can be purchased in person at Jim Patterson Stadium starting at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday.

The Cardinals gained control of Saturday's game early as Wunderlich, an All-American junior third baseman from Chicago, Ill. (Downers Grove HS), hammered the first pitch of his at-bat against Vanderbilt ace righty Sonny Gray over the wall in left center field for his team-leading 21st home run of the season and a 3-0 lead with two outs in the first inning. Overall, Wunderlich finished 2-for-4 at the plate with four RBI and two runs scored for the Cardinals.

From there, the right-handed pitching duo of Koch and Holland held the Commodores to just one run on four hits with eight strikeouts. Koch, a freshman from Cherokee, Iowa (Washington HS) gave Louisville another terrific start allowing just one run on three hits with three strikeouts to earn the win and improve to 3-0 on the season. After Koch, the Cardinals turned to Holland, their All-American junior closer from Owensboro, Ky. (Owensboro Catholic HS), who allowed just one hit with five strikeouts in three shutout innings of relief to earn his 17th save of the season, which leads all of NCAA Division I baseball.

Along with Wunderlich, sophomore second baseman Ryan Wright (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead HS) had a strong day at the plate going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while senior shortstop Adam Duvall (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) led a strong day in the field for the Cardinals matching a career high with seven assists to go with a hit and a run scored at the plate.

For the Commodores, Gray allowed seven runs on nine hits, including just his third home run of the season, with eight strikeouts to fall to 9-5 on the season. At the plate, third baseman Jason Esposito provided Vanderbilt's only run with a solo home run in the fourth inning.

Louisville opened the scoring early in Saturday's game with the home run from Wunderlich, which scored both Duvall and senior first baseman Andrew Clark (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine HS). Duvall started the action with a one-out single to left field and then moved to second on a walk to Clark before Wunderlich followed one batter later with his clutch home run on a fast ball from Gray.

Following a scoreless second inning, the Cardinals added to their lead with a run in the third as senior catcher Jeff Arnold (Louisville, Ky./Male HS) led off with a single to center field, moved to third on a throwing error by VU first baseman Aaron Westlake as Clark reached on a fielder's choice and then scored on an RBI single through the left side by Wright for a 4-0 margin.

After the Commodores broke through for their run in the fourth on Esposito's 10th home run of the season, Louisville's pitching dominated the rest of the way allowing just one hit during the final five innings of play to close the door.

The Cardinals added three insurance runs in the eighth inning to put things completely out of reach. After leading off the inning with a double to left center and moving to third on a single to right by Wright, Clark scored the first run of the inning as Joe Loftus misplayed the ball in right field. Wunderlich then followed with an RBI double to left center to score Wright for the 6-1 lead. After moving to third on a deep fly ball off the bat of redshirt sophomore outfielder Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS), Wunderlich scored the final run of the game on an RBI sacrifice fly to left field by junior outfielder Josh Richmond (Cincinnati, Ohio/Oak Hills HS) for the final 7-1 margin.