LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Suffering its first series loss of the season, the No. 4 Louisville baseball team dropped a 7-3 decision to visiting Rutgers in the decisive game of a three-game set on Saturday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The Cardinals fell to 19-4 overall and 1-2 in BIG EAST Conference action after splitting Saturday’s doubleheader, while the Scarlet Knights improved to 8-11 on the season and 2-1 in league games. Louisville opened Saturday with a 4-0 victory before dropping the second game, which was originally scheduled for Sunday but was moved ahead one day due to expected inclement weather.
This weekend marked the first time in eight seasons as a member of the BIG EAST Conference Louisville has suffered a series loss in the first weekend of league action. It was also the Cardinals’ first series loss of the season.
“We have to give Rutgers a lot of credit,” said Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell. “Their three starting pitchers this weekend did a great job of getting them deep into each game. Their catcher did a very nice job of controlling our running game and they played hard. That was a good introduction to BIG EAST baseball because it’s going to be tough like that every weekend. There are a lot of good teams in our league and a lot of good competition. Hopefully, we’ll learn from this and come out better next time.”
The Scarlet Knights fired first in Saturday’s finale plating two runs on two hits in the second frame against Louisville righty starter Jared Ruxer (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS). Leftfielder Vinny Zarrillo started the inning with a leadoff single to center and moved to second when catcher Jeff Melillo was hit by a pitch. After advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by rightfielder Steve Zavala, Zarrillo scored the first run on a wild pitch by Ruxer. Rutgers starting pitcher Charlie Law followed with an RBI single to left to score Melillo for the 2-0 lead.
An inning later, Louisville answered with a pair of runs on two hits against Law to even the score at 2-2. After leading off the inning with a double down the right field line and moving to third on a sac bunt by junior outfielder Adam Engel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Loveland HS), sophomore shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa./Louisville Ballard HS) scored when Law’s throw to third baseman Matt Tietz on the bunt was wide of the bag and went down the left field line. Later in the inning, after moving to third on the throwing error by Law and advancing to third on a passed ball by Melillo, Engel scored on an RBI groundout by junior third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep).
Rutgers answered the Louisville challenge quickly by scoring two runs in the fourth inning to regain the lead for good. After leading off the inning with a walk and moving to second on a sac bunt, centerfielder Brian O’Grady scored on an RBI double by down the left field line by Melillo. Zavala followed with an RBI single to left center to plate Melillo for the 4-2 advantage.
Following a scoreless fifth inning, the Scarlet Knights pushed their lead to 6-2 in the sixth on RBI singles by Zavala and Law. In the eighth, Rutgers plated its final run of the day, another RBI single by Zavala, for the 7-2 cushion. The Cardinals plated their final run of the night in the ninth on an RBI groundout by senior first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS).
Ruxer suffered his first loss of the season and dropped to 0-1 overall after allowing four runs on four hits in 3.1 innings of work, while Law earned the win, his first of the season to improve to 1-2, after giving up only one earned run on six hits in eight innings. Offensively, no Louisville player had more than one hit, while Zavala and Melillo had three hits each to lead the Scarlet Knights.
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Postgame Louisville Notes
- Saturday’s win for Rutgers clinched the Scarlet Knights’ first regular season series win over Louisville. Overall, the Cardinals hold an 18-7 lead in the all-time series.
- Louisville scored just nine runs in the three-game series with Rutgers, the Cardinals’ lowest run total for any three-game stretch this season.
- Entering the week, the Cardinals had been out-hit only twice in their first 18 games. However, Louisville was out-hit in both losses to the Scarlet Knights and has been out-hit in three of the last four overall.
- The seven earned runs plated in Saturday’s finale are a season-high allowed by Louisville. Through Saturday’s action, the Cardinals have a 2.07 ERA overall.
- Through 23games, Sutton Whiting leads the Cardinals in hitting at .395 overall. He also ranks second on the team in RBI with 19 (Ty Young leads with 22).
- Despite earning his first no-decision of the season in Saturday’s opener, righty Jeff Thompson maintained his stellar start to the season. The junior leads the Cardinals’ pitching staff with a 4-0 record and a miniscule 0.46 ERA with 39 strikeouts and just 19 hits allowed in 39.0 innings pitched.
- Though the Cardinals did suffer their first series loss of the season, they did earn their sixth straight winning week of the season finishing 3-2 overall after starting the week with a pair of midweek wins over USC.
- After splitting a pair of games on Saturday, Louisville is 17-3 at Jim Patterson Stadium this season and 197-73 (.729 winning percentage) all-time in the ballpark, which opened in 2005.