LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Facing a six-run deficit with just six outs to go, No. 8 Louisville rallied for two runs in the eighth and four more in the ninth before Alex Chittenden's game-winning RBI single in the 12th scored Will Smith to lift the Cardinals' to an 8-7 series-clinching walk-off win against Memphis on Sunday.
Chittenden completed the furious rally for the Cardinals (23-8, 4-2 American) by sending the first pitch from Memphis (18-14, 3-6 American) closer Bryce Beeler back up the middle and into centerfield allowing Smith to score without a play at the plate. Smith was hit by a pitch to start the inning and moved to second on a wild pitch before taking third on a sacrifice bunt by Danny Rosenbaum.
Sunday marked Louisville's largest deficit overcome for a victory since earning an 8-7 home win over Bowling Green on Feb. 20, 2010 after trailing 7-0 in the first inning. Overall, the Cardinals have eight come-from-behind wins this season, including two when trailing after seven innings.
Smith, who came off the bench as a defensive replacement to start the eighth, was 2-for-2 with a double and a career-best two RBI, while the game-winning single was the only hit of the day for Chittenden. Zach Lucas was 3-for-5 with two RBI and Rosenbaum was 2-for-5 with one RBI as the Cardinals finished with a 16-12 advantage in hits. Sutton Whiting chipped in with a single, three walks, two stolen bases and two runs scored, while Cole Sturgeon scored twice after singling and walking.
On the mound, righty Nick Burdi delivered a huge outing from the bullpen striking out five while allowing only one walk and no hits in three innings of shutout relief to earn the win and improve to 2-0 on the season. It was the longest outing for Burdi since he delivered three innings of shutout relief in Louisville's 4-3 win in 14 innings against Alabama on March 8, 2013. Overall, Burdi has 28 strikeouts to just five walks while opponents are hitting just .132 against him in 12 relief appearances and 15.0 shutout innings this season.
After struggling for much of the game, Louisville started the rally in the eighth inning on a RBI single through the right side by Smith to score Sturgeon. Rosenbaum followed with a RBI single up the middle to score Nick Solak and cut the deficit to 7-3.
The comeback kicked into overdrive in the ninth inning with back-to-back one-out walks to Whiting and Sturgeon by Tigers' reliever Conner Porter. After a single to left field by senior Shane Crain loaded the bases, Whiting scored from third on a RBI groundout to first by senior outfielder Jeff Gardner. Lucas followed with a two-out, two-run single through the left side off Beeler to score Sturgeon and pinch-runner Mike White and cut the deficit to a single run. The fourth and final run of the ninth was pinch-runner Colin Lyman, who scored from first on a two-out RBI double down the left field line by Smith to pull Louisville even at 7-7.
The game started with Memphis plating the first run of the day in the top of the first inning on a RBI groundout by outfielder Kane Barrow to score second baseman Zach Willis. Louisville answered in the bottom of the first to make it 1-1 after Whiting singled, took second on a sacrifice bunt by Sturgeon, stole third and scored after a throwing error by catcher Carter White on the steal.
Following a scoreless second inning, the Tigers gained command in the third inning with a pair of runs against Louisville sophomore Anthony Kidston. After loading the bases with three singles, Memphis scored the first run when White was hit by a pitch sending Willis home and the second run after first baseman Tucker Tubbs walked to plate shortstop Ethan Gross for the 3-1 advantage.
An inning later, Memphis added to the lead on a RBI singles from Barrow and White off Louisville freshman lefty Drew Harrington. The Tigers pushed two more runs across on a RBI single from Tubbs and a RBI single by third baseman Drew Griffin for the 7-1 cushion in the seventh.
Along with the dominant relief appearance from Burdi, Louisville also got 2.1 scoreless innings from junior righty Brandon Alphin, 1.2 innings of shutout work from junior lefty Kyle McGrath and one inning of scoreless relief from freshman lefty Robert Strader. Beeler suffered his first loss of the season and dropped to 2-1 overall for the Tigers after allowing two runs on three hits in 2.2 innings of relief. Barrow led the Memphis offense going 2-for-3 with two RBI.