In the opener of the Louisville baseball team’s most pivotal weekend series to date, Justin Amlung was at his finest. For that matter, so was Ty Young.
That meant double-trouble for BIG EAST Conference leader St. John’s, as the No. 22 Cardinals crept closer to the No. 20 Red Storm with a commanding 5-0 victory on Friday night at a packed Jim Patterson Stadium behind a dominant outing from Amlung and a career-high four hits by Young.
Louisville (34-16 overall) trimmed a two-game deficit to St. John’s in the BIG EAST standings to one after improving to 15-7 in league play. The Red Storm (31-18), meanwhile, dropped to 16-6 in conference action.
Amlung (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier HS) boosted his record to 8-3, including 5-1 in the BIG EAST, by firing seven shutout innings and yielding just three hits. Through the first five innings, the junior right-hander didn’t allow a single batter to reach base with less than two outs. Rightfielder Pat Talbut led off the sixth with a bunt single, but Amlung retired the next three hitters to end St. John’s top threat against the Cardinals’ hurler.
With the victory, Amlung took over sole possession of second place on Louisville’s all-time wins list with 23, six behind Justin Marks. His six strikeouts pushed his career total to 226 and moved him up to fifth place, while he’s now tied for seventh on the single-season strikeouts list with Zack Pitts (2007) with 91. Over his last three starts, Amlung has given up a single run in 22 innings.
Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Preparatory School) had his first-ever four-hit game in a Cardinals uniform. The sophomore third baseman finished 4-for-4 – all singles – with two RBI and was a factor in every inning Louisville scored. Senior rightfielder Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic) collected a hit and two RBI, while junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) and sophomore designated hitter Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy) each scored twice and notched a hit.
As has been their general course of action this season, the Cardinals had a productive first inning, plating two runs to bump their advantage over opponents in the opening frame in 2012 to 82-10. They didn’t let up, pushing across one run in the third and two in the fourth to build a comfortable advantage.
Sophomore leftfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) led off the first by singling up the middle off St. John’s junior starter Matt Carasiti and took third when Ratajczak whizzed a single through the left side and advanced on the throw to third. Gardner brought in Sturgeon and moved Ratajczak over with a ground out to first before Young added an RBI single with a hard grounder that bounded off Carasiti.
Louisville boosted its lead to 3-0 in the third when Gardner led off with a single, moved to second on a Young single, to third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman shortstop Zach Lucas (Louisville, Ky./Butler HS) and to home on an infield single by Ijames.
The Cardinals padded their lead to 5-0 with two more runs in the fourth. With one out, St. John’s senior left-hander Brendan Lobban hit Ratajczak – the 22nd time this season he has been plunked – and Ratajczak raced all the way around to third on Lobban’s errant pickoff attempt. After Gardner walked, Young plated Ratajczak with a single up the middle and Ijames drove in the team’s fifth run with a sacrifice fly.
Louisville flashed some stellar defense behind Amlung. In the fifth, Lucas made a diving stop and fired across to first to get St. John’s leadoff hitter Kyle Richardson. With one out and a runner on second in the sixth, Young laid out to snatch a hard ground ball by first baseman Frank Schwindel and got him at first.
Senior right-hander Travis Tingle (Louisville, Ky./Cleveland State CC) entered to start the eighth and pitched two innings of scoreless relief to seal up the win. On the other side, Carasiti (4-4) took the loss after allowing three earned runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings. Lobban gave up two earned runs in 4.2 innings of long relief. Talbut led the Red Storm with two hits.
Centerfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS), who missed 12 games with an injured thumb on his non-throwing left hand, returned to Louisville’s starting lineup. Engel saw his eight-game hitting streak snapped, but he did rip a line drive that was caught by a diving Jeremy Baltz, St. John’s leftfielder.
Louisville and St. John’s will meet in the second game of the series at 11:30 a.m., ET on Saturday. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU. Cardinals sophomore right-hander Jeff Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS), who is 9-1 with a 3.48 ERA this season, is scheduled to oppose Red Storm junior left-hander Sean Hagan (6-2, 2.96 ERA).
Louisville Postgame Notes
- With Friday’s win, the Cardinals improved to 23-7 at home this season and are 178-68 (.723 winning percentage) all-time at Jim Patterson Stadium since it opened in April 2005.
- With their two runs on Friday, the Cardinals increased their scoring advantage in the first inning this season to 82-10 overall.
- Louisville improved to 20-8 this season when scoring in the first inning and 28-8 when scoring first.
- Friday marked the Cardinals’ fourth shutout win of the season.
- Friday’s announced crowd of 3,058 was the Cardinals’ second largest at home this season.
- Louisville, which entered the week ranked second in the nation in hit-by-pitch, added three more to the total on Friday taking the season total to 99.
- Junior Justin Amlung earned career win No. 23, which placed him in sole possession of second on the Cardinals’ all-time list behind only Justin Marks’ 29 from 2007-09.
- With his six strikeouts on Friday, Amlung moved into sixth on the Cardinals’ career list with 226 and into a tie for seventh on the single season list with Zack Pitts (2007) at 91.
- The four hits on Friday for sophomore Ty Young were a career-high. After Friday’s action, he leads the Cardinals in hitting at .364.
- With his two RBI on Friday, senior Stewart Ijames moved into a third-place tie on the Cardinals’ career list at 201 with Richie Hawks (1988-91). Ijames leads the Cardinals this season with 54 RBI.
- Sophomore outfielder Adam Engel returned to the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Friday for the first time since he suffered an injured thump on his left (non-throwing) hand against Seton Hall on April 15. Overall, he missed 12 games and was out of the lineup for 13 games.
- After Friday’s action, Louisville (15-7) sits alone in second in the BIG EAST standings, one game behind first-place St. John’s (16-6). USF and Connecticut are tied for third at 14-8, while Seton Hall is fifth at 13-9 with five BIG EAST games left in the regular season race.