OMAHA, Neb. - Another highly successful season for the Louisville baseball team came to an end on Monday afternoon in a 4-1 loss to Texas in a College World Series elimination game at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
Reaching the 50-win plateau for the second straight season and the third time in five years, the Cardinals (50-17) were unable to capitalize on their second straight trip to Omaha going 0-2 at the CWS in back-to-back seasons. Despite ending its season earlier than hoped, Louisville maintained its upward trend in 2014 by winning its fifth conference championship in six years, hosting its fourth NCAA Regional in six seasons and its second NCAA Super Regional in school history while making its third CWS appearances in eight seasons.
“I'm really proud of this group. This was a fun, fun year. And I'm really proud these five seniors kept the culture alive,” said head coach Dan McDonnell after completing his eighth season in Louisville. “Sometimes you have to stop and reflect -- I'm not really good at that because I have a recruiting mind, and I'm always worried about tomorrow. So I need to take a moment sometimes to stop and reflect because what a fun year. This was a lot of fun.”
Monday’s loss had a similar formula as the previous three losses in Omaha for the Cardinals as they faced an early deficit and were never able to find the offensive traction needed to overcome the margin. The Longhorns (44-20), who advance to another elimination game against either UC Irvine or Vanderbilt on Wednesday night, scored single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to gain command in the first ever matchup on the baseball diamond between the two programs.
Sophomore righthander Anthony Kidston (Defiance, Ohio) suffered his first collegiate loss on Monday despite delivering a quality start in which he allowed just two earned runs on six hits with five strikeouts and one walk in eight innings. While equaling the longest outing of his career, Kidston fell to 9-1 on the season and 14-1 in two seasons with the Cardinals.
No Louisville player had more than one hit as Texas finished with a 7-4 advantage in hits. The Cardinals also matched a season-high in committing four errors, which allowed two unearned runs for the Longhorns.
Texas struck for its first run of the game in the third on a RBI sacrifice fly to left field by outfielder Ben Johnson to score third baseman Zane Gurwitz for the 1-0 lead. Gurwitz led off the inning with a double down the left field line and moved to third on a groundout before sliding home just ahead of a good throw to the plate by Louisville leftfielder Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky.).
The Longhorns scored their second run of the game in the fourth on a RBI groundball by first baseman Kacy Clemens to plate shortstop C.J. Hinojosa. An inning later, the lead expanded to 3-0 after Texas took advantage of two Louisville errors to plate a run on a groundball off the bat of Hinojosa.
The Cardinals broke through for their only run of the afternoon in the eighth inning when junior shortstop Sutton Whiting (New Wilmington, Pa.) scored on a RBI groundout by senior outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky.). Whiting started the inning with a leadoff walk, moved to second when junior second baseman Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky.) was hit by a pitch and took third on a sacrifice bunt by senior catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky.).
Any hopes of a Louisville comeback were dashed in the ninth when a missed call at second base led to an error by the Cardinals and eventually allowed an insurance run to score for the Longhorns. Texas starter Parker French was credited with the win and improved to 7-5 on the season after allowing just one run on four hits with three strikeouts and three walks in 7.1 innings.
Whiting had the best day at the plate for the Cardinals going 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. The four hits for Louisville were the second fewest of the season dating back to March 23 when they had just three hits in a loss to Rutgers.
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Louisville Postgame Notes
- The Cardinals’ opponents scored first in each of the final four games of the season. Louisville finished 2014 with a 15-13 record in games where the opponent scored first.
- Louisville was 39-0 this season when scoring five or more runs and only 11-17 when scoring four or fewer runs.
- Among players starting at least half of the Cardinals’ games this season, Cole Sturgeon led the team in hitting with a .323 average.
- Zach Lucas led the Louisville in hitting in the NCAA Championship going 9-for-22 (.409 avg.) with five doubles in seven games.
- The freshmen tandem of Corey Ray and Nick Solak were impressive throughout the postseason. Ray hit .364 (8-for-22) with three doubles and three RBI in seven starts, while Solak hit .318 (7-for-22) with two doubles, one home run, eight RBI, four runs scored, six walks and three stolen bases in seven starts.
- A .312 hitter in four seasons with the Cardinals, Cole Sturgeon completed his collegiate career ranked fourth all-time at Louisville in games played with 233, fifth in at-bats with 821, tied for fifth in hits with 256, sixth in triples with 14, eighth in hit-by-pitch with 36 and ninth in stolen bases with 44.
- Jeff Gardner departs Louisville as a .318 career hitter in 179 starts and 218 games played with the Cardinals.
- In three seasons at Louisville, Nick Burdi has the lowest ERA in school history at 1.79 and is the school record holder in career (34) and single season (18 in 2014) saves. He also ranks 10th in career pitching appearances with 74, while his 0.49 ERA in 2014 is the lowest single season ERA ever at Louisville.