LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- After overcoming a pair of three-run deficits and tying the score three different times, the No. 7 Louisville baseball team finally gained command for good in the eighth inning of Saturday afternoon's 9-8 series-clinching victory against Rutgers at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Overcoming a 4-1 deficit in the second to even the score at 4-4 in the fourth, and battling back from an 8-5 deficit in the sixth to tie the game at 8-8 in the seventh, the Cardinals (17-5, 2-0 American) scored the game-winning run in the eighth when junior infielder Grant Kay touched home following an RBI groundball off the bat of junior infielder Zach Lucas. It marked the seventh comeback win this season for Louisville and the second largest deficit overcome in a win.
The decisive eighth inning started with a Rutgers (7-12, 0-2 American) error when rightfielder Tom Marcinczyk dropped a routine flyball allowing Kay to reach second with one out. After moving to third with his second stolen base of the game, Kay scored the game-winning run when Lucas grounded to the shortstop for the second out of the inning.
Kay led the offense for the Cardinals going 3-for-4 with a career-best four runs scored, two stolen bases and one RBI, while senior outfielder Jeff Gardner was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run. Louisville, which matched a season-high with seven stolen bases, won for just the third time in seven games this season when being out-hit by its opponent after Rutgers finished with a 13-9 edge.
On the mound, senior lefty Cole Sturgeon earned his first career win working a perfect inning of relief in the eighth, while junior righty Nick Burdi struck out the side in the ninth to earn his third save of the season and the 19th of his career moving him into a tie atop the Cardinals' career saves leaderboard with Neil Holland (19 saves, 2008-10). Saturday marked the fourth time in eight relief appearances this season Burdi, who has 15 strikeouts in eight innings in 2014, has finished with three strikeouts in a single inning.
The Scarlet Knights opened the scoring early on Saturday as leftfielder Vinny Zarrillo connected for a two-run single to center and third baseman Christian Campbell added an RBI single for the 3-0 advantage. After Louisville cut into the deficit with an RBI single from Kay in the bottom of the first, Rutgers pushed the lead to 4-1 in the second on an RBI single to left by second baseman Nick Favatella.
The Cardinals started their first big comeback in the third inning on a two-run double to left center by Gardner and then evened the score at 4-4 in the fourth inning on an RBI single by freshman outfielder Logan Taylor. Following a run in the top of the fifth by the Scarlet Knights on an RBI single from Zarrillo, Louisville answered to tie things at 5-5 in the bottom of the inning on a bases-loaded RBI walk for freshman designated hitter Nick Solak.
Rutgers pulled back ahead with a three-run sixth inning that started with an RBI sacrifice fly off the bat of shortstop Pat Sweeney. After an RBI single from catcher R.J. Devish, Sweeney scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch for the 8-5 lead.
An inning later, Louisville tied the score for the final time with three runs in the seventh, including the final two on a wild infield exchange. After loading the bases, Solak connected for an RBI sac fly to center to score Kay and cut the deficit to 8-6. With Gardner at second base and Lucas at first with two outs, senior Kyle Gibson followed with a pinch hit infield single reaching first just ahead of the throw from first baseman Brian O'Grady to pitcher Howie Brey as he covered first. As that was happening, Gardner rounded third and never slowed as he looked to score from second base. The throw home from Brey was off-target rolling all the way to the backstop, which allowed both Gardner and Lucas to reach home and even the score at 8-8.
Junior righty Jared Ruxer finished with a no-decision for the Cardinals after allowing five runs on six hits in 4.1 innings in his sixth start of the season. Brey took the loss for the Scarlet Knights and dropped to 2-1 on the season after allowing only an unearned run on one infield hit in 1.1 innings of relief.