– The 25th-ranked Louisville baseball team advanced to the championship round of the 2012 Tucson Regional with a 11-3 victory over Missouri in an elimination game on Sunday afternoon at Hi Corbett Field.
The Cardinals (41-21) will play top-seeded and No. 8 ranked Arizona in a Sunday rematch of Saturday’s day two meeting won by the Wildcats. A win by Louisville in Sunday night’s game would setup a third and decisive meeting with Arizona on Monday at 11 p.m., EDT (8 p.m., MST), while a loss by the Cardinals would send the Wildcats into next weekend’s Super Regional round of the NCAA Championship.
Louisville pounded out a season-high 20 hits as seven different Cardinals finished with at least two hits in the win. Junior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC) led the way going 3-for-3 with three singles, three HBPs and three runs scored. Sophomore third baseman Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) was 2-for-5 with four RBI, while sophomore outfielder Adam Engel (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland HS) and sophomore catcher Kyle Gibson (Henderson, Ky./Henderson County HS) added three hits each to go with one run and one RBI.
On the mound, junior righty Matt Koch (Cherokee, Iowa/Washington HS) came out of the bullpen for 4.2 innings of shutout relief allowing just four hits with two strikeouts to earn his first win of the season and improve to 1-2 overall. The outing for Koch was his longest of the season after relieving righty starter Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS), who allowed three runs on eight hits with two strikeouts in 4.1 innings.
The Cardinals wasted little time in jumping on Missouri righty starter Cody Ross plating three runs on five hits in the top of the first inning. The inning started with a one-out single by Engel, who moved to second with his 37th stolen base of the season and advanced to third on a single by Ratajczak. Young followed with an RBI groundout to first to plate Engel for the first run of the day.
The inning continued as senior designated hitter Stewart Ijames (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) belted a RBI double to right center to score Ratajczak for the 2-0 lead. The double for Ijames was the 52nd of his career, which ranks seventh on the Cardinals’ all-time list. Sophomore shortstop Alex Chittenden (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central HS) then supplied a RBI single up the middle to score Ijames for the final run of the inning.
With the runs in the opening frame, Louisville has outscored its opponents 87-14 in the first inning this season. The Cardinals improved to 32-10 this season when scoring first, including a 22-9 mark when scoring in the first inning.
Missouri answered with its first run of the game in the second inning as shortstop Eric Garcia connected for a two-out RBI single to left field to plate first baseman Andreas Plackis. However, the Cardinals answered with a run in the top of the third as Ijames delivered a RBI sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Ratajczak for the 4-1 advantage. Ratajczak started the inning with a single up the middle and advanced to third on a single to right by Young before scoring on the flyout.
The Tigers drew closer in the fourth inning when leftfielder Scott Sommerfield scored from second on a two-out RBI single to right field by Garcia for a 4-2 Louisville lead. Sommerfield reached base earlier in the inning when he was hit by a pitch from Green and moved to second on a single to right field by second baseman Dillon Everett.
However, an inning later, Louisville earned its second three-run frame of the game to take a 7-3 advantage in the sixth. The inning started with a leadoff double by Gibson, who then scored on an RBI single by sophomore outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) for the first run of the inning. After Ratajczak was hit by a two-out pitch from Mizzou reliever Jeff Emens, Young blistered a two-run triple down the right field line for the four-run cushion. The triple for Young was his fourth of the season.
The Cardinals added their eighth run of the game in the eighth inning when Young provided his fourth RBI of the day with a sac fly to right field to plate junior outfielder Matt Helms (Eufaula, Okla./Seminole State CC). The inning started with a leadoff double from Helms, who moved to third on a single by Engel before scoring on the flyball. Louisville added three final runs in the ninth as Gibson had a RBI single, Sturgeon added a RBI triple and Engel chipped in with a RBI single for the final margin.