LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Eighth-ranked Louisville plated a run in the third inning, broke open the game with three runs in the seventh, and got a strong pitching performance from Josh Rogers, holding on to post a 4-1 win over No. 22 Kentucky to end the Wildcats season in the NCAA Louisville Regional Final, on a rainy Sunday night at Jim Patterson Stadium.
After a nearly four-hour rain delay from the scheduled first pitch, the two teams returned to the turf at Jim Patterson Stadium for the regional final, with first pitch at 8:15 p.m. ET.
Kentucky (37-25) fell behind after a single run scored in the third inning and despite a strong start from freshman Logan Salow, the Wildcats couldn’t erase the early UL lead. The Cardinals added a three runs in the seventh off the UK bullpen, after a heroic start from Salow. UK rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning, but a hard collision at the plate – the second of the seventh inning after Thomas Bernal was the victim of a collision from Alex Chittenden – led to an ejection of Bernal.
The loss ends UK’s 2014 season, which finished with the sixth-most wins in Kentucky history. UK’s NCAA Louisville Regional runner-up finish ties its best finish in program history, also done in 1988, 2006, 2008 and 2012. After falling to Kansas in the opener, 10-6, UK rallied to beat Kent State with four runs in the ninth, 4-2, before posting an 8-6 win over KU in an elimination game, earlier on Sunday.
A native of Ashland, Ky., Salow (2-4) worked a career-long six innings in his second career start. Salow allowed five hits and one run, coming in the third inning, walking three and striking out four. UK turned to lefty Sam Mahar to start the seventh inning, who walked the leadoff hitter and allowed three hits and three runs, while getting one out. Zach Strecker then came on in the seventh to get a strikeout and a play at the plate to escape the jam. Strecker worked 2.2 shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk, striking out two.
Rogers (3-3) turned in a gem for the Cardinals, working six innings, allowing just four hits and no walks, striking out five. Rogers, who suffered two of his three losses to UK in 2014, gave way in the seventh inning for Jake Sparger. Sparger came on and hit one hitter and walked a second to end his outing. Lefty Kyle McGrath worked two shutout innings, allowing a walk. Flame-throwing closer Nick Burdi worked the ninth inning, picking up his 16th save of the year. Burdie threw seven consecutive balls to open the ninth, before settling in to record a strikeout, a groundout and a foul fly out.
Louisville (48-15) got on the board first in the top of the third inning, after a second trip through the order. Shane Craine led off with a full-count walk, taking third on Sutton Whiting’s one-out double. After Cole Sturgeon was hit by a pitch, Nick Solak drove a single to rightfield, scoring Crain. Salow then induced an inning-ending double play to escape the jam.
Louisville added to its lead in the top of the seventh inning, as Mahar walked Sutton Whiting, a .212 hitter entering the game, to lead off. Cole Sturgeon then laid down a bunt single to bring up Solak. Solak laid down a bunt back to the mound and Mahar threw the ball into rightfield, allowing Whiting to score for a 2-0 lead and putting two runners in scoring position with no outs. After Mahar got a strikeout, Alex Chittenden blooped a single into shallow rightfield, over the heads of UK’s drawn-in infield. Corey Ray followed with a double, over the drawn-in infield, scoring the third UL run of the frame.
UK got on the board in a wild seventh inning, as Wilson was hit by a pitch and Bernal drew a walk. Reida then worked a nine-pitch at-bat and grounded out to the right side, scoring Wilson. UK then turned to Kyle Barrett to pinch-hit with a Bernal at third and one out. Barrett lined out to a sliding Sturgeon in centerfield, with Bernal motoring home. Sturgeon popped up out of the slide and threw a strike to Gibson at the plate, with Bernal charging into Gibson for the out. Bernal was immediately ejected and Gibson spiked the ball into the ground in celebration.