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Louisville Athletics | March 8, 2015

Freshman hero

  Freshman pitcher Brendan McKay hit a game-winning RBI single and pitched two shutout innings.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Freshman Brendan McKay worked two shutout innings of relief before delivering a game-winning RBI single in the ninth to lift the 19th-ranked Louisville baseball team to a 5-4 series-clinching victory against No. 15 Miami on Sunday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.

With the deciding game in the series tied at 4-4 and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, McKay singled to center on a 2-1 offering from closer Bryan Garcia to score pinch runner Colin Lyman for the Cardinals (10-5, 2-1 ACC) in their first Atlantic Coast Conference series. The single capped a perfect 3-for-3 day at the plate for McKay, who added two more singles and scored once.

On the mound, McKay finished with two strikeouts while recording the final six outs of the game without allowing a hit against the Hurricanes (10-6, 1-2 ACC) to earn the win and improve to 2-0 on the season. While carrying a .464 average and five RBI as a hitter in eight starts, McKay also has three saves and 19 strikeouts in 11.0 shutout innings of relief on the mound this season.

The decisive ninth inning rally for the Cardinals started with freshman pinch hitter Colby Fitch reaching base on a fielding error by Miami second baseman Sebastian Diaz. After a walk to senior infielder Sutton Whiting, sophomore infielder Nick Solak delivered a sacrifice bunt to move Lyman, pinch running for Fitch, to third and advance Whiting to second. After sophomore outfielder Corey Ray was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out, McKay provided the heroics for the win against Garcia, who dropped his first game of the season and moved to 1-1 overall.

The Hurricanes found the scoring column first on Sunday plating a run in the top of the first inning on a RBI double by third baseman George Iskenderian to score outfielder Ricky Eusebio.

Louisville answered in the bottom of the first with a two-out, two-run single to left by senior third baseman Zach Lucas to score Ray and McKay. Ray started the two-out chance with a single to right and was followed by another single to right off the bat of McKay, who advanced to second on a wild pitch before the Lucas single.

Following a scoreless second inning, Miami regained the lead in the top of the third thanks to three unearned runs against Louisville sophomore lefty Josh Rogers. After a fielding error by freshman Devin Hairston on a two-out groundball extended the inning and plated a run, the Hurricanes got a two-run double by first baseman David Thompson to take a 4-2 advantage.

The Cardinals bounced back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third to even the score at 4-4. After loading the bases against righty Derik Beauprez, Lucas walked to score Solak for the first run of the inning. Sophomore catcher Will Smith followed with a RBI grounder to plate Ray for the equalizer.

The Hurricanes best chance to regain the lead came in the top of the ninth against McKay, who issued a leadoff walk to Thompson. After a sacrifice bunt moved Thompson to second, he advanced to third on a one-out wild pitch to Jacob Heyward. However, that was as close as Thompson would get to scoring as McKay struck out Heyward swinging on a 2-2 pitch and got Diaz looking at an 0-2 offering to create momentum for the bottom of the ninth.

Rogers finished with a no-decision for the Cardinals after allowing just one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts in five innings pitched. The gap between Rogers and McKay was filled impressively by freshman righty Lincoln Henzman, who retired six consecutive Miami hitters in two perfect innings of relief.

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