– On Saturday at Jim Patterson Stadium, the Louisville baseball team had the opportunity to position itself alongside St. John’s at the top of the BIG EAST Conference perch. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are still looking up at the Red Storm.
Sean Hagan tossed a complete game, Jeremy Baltz unloaded four hits and a leaky Louisville defense in the sixth led to three crucial runs as No. 20 St. John’s recorded a 6-2 victory over the No. 22 Cardinals.
The teams have split the first two games of the series, with Louisville taking the first 5-0. The Cardinals dropped to 34-17 overall and 15-8 in the BIG EAST, while the Red Storm improved to 32-18 overall and 17-6 in conference play. The third game in the pivotal series will be played at noon ET on Sunday at Jim Patterson Stadium.
After junior right-hander Justin Amlung (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier HS) was masterful in Louisville’s win on Friday, St. John’s received a commanding outing from Hagan. The junior left-hander allowed only two runs – both in the sixth – on five hits and retired the last 14 Cardinals to sew up his seventh victory. The complete game was the second for Hagan (7-2), who walked just one batter and struck out six.
The BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year, Baltz went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and one RBI. The junior leftfielder opened St. John’s scoring off Louisville sophomore right-hander Jeff Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) in the second inning with a homer to left. It was the first rounder-tripper Thompson has surrendered this season and the sixth that Baltz has walloped. Junior catcher Danny Bethea also had a big day for the Red Storm with an RBI single in the fourth and a two-run single in the sixth.
Thompson was dealt just his second loss this season, moving his record to 9-2. He pitched 4.1 innings and gave up three earned runs on five hits. Thompson left the game down 3-0 and the Red Storm racked up three more runs in the sixth to take a 6-0 lead.
Louisville miscues led to St. John’s big sixth inning. The Cardinals started the frame with an error in the infield and threw away a sacrifice bunt after a walk. The second mistake allowed a run to score and Bethea brought in two more with a single off junior right-hander Matt Koch (Cherokee, Iowa/Cherokee Washington HS), who had just entered to pitch.
Louisville’s missteps in the sixth appeared especially costly after the Cardinals began the bottom half with three hits and got two runs back. Junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) singled to lead off the inning and freshman shortstop Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) cranked a ground-rule double to left. Sophomore third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) got Louisville in the scoring column with an RBI single to center, and sophomore leftfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) drove in a run with a ground out.
Hagan restored order on the mound from there, ending the threat with a strikeout and a fly out. He then retired the Cardinals in order over the final three innings.
The biggest bright spot for Louisville was its relief pitching. No runs were charged to Koch and him and freshman right-hander Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South HS) combined for four scoreless innings of relief and four strikeouts. Sophomore right-hander Dace Kime (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS) allowed three runs in 0.2 innings, but only one was earned after the Cardinals committed two of their four errors in his stint.
Ratajczak had two of Louisville’s five hits. St. John’s had 10, paced by Baltz (four), Bethea (two) and sophomore first baseman Frank Schwindel (two).