LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Junior outfielder Cole Sturgeon’s one-out bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 14th inning scored junior leadoff hitter Adam Engel to lift the fifth-ranked Louisville baseball team to a 4-3 triumph over visiting Alabama in Friday’s series-opener at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The 14 innings were the most ever played by the Cardinals (10-2) at Jim Patterson Stadium, which opened during the 2005 season, surpassing Louisville’s 9-8 win in 13 innings over Western Kentucky on April 25, 2005. The walk-off win for Louisville was its first of the season and the first since March 4, 2011 when they earned a 3-2 win in 11 innings against Kent State at home.
Engel (Cincinnati, Ohio/Loveland HS), who was 2-for-6 with a double, two stolen bases and two runs scored in the win, started the decisive 14th frame when he was hit by a 1-0 pitch from Alabama (8-5) reliever Jay Shaw. After moving to second with his team-leading 15th stolen base of the season, Engel moved to third on a groundout to the right side by senior second baseman Nick Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Gulf Coast CC). After junior outfielder Coco Johnson (Benton Harbor, Mich./Central Arizona) was hit by a pitch and junior infielder Ty Young (Coatesville, Pa./Malvern Prep) was intentionally walked to load the bases, Sturgeon took ball four low and outside on a 3-1 pitch from Shaw to plate Engel for the game-winner.
After entering the game in the 14th inning as Alabama’s fifth pitcher on the day, Shaw took the loss for the Crimson Tide to fall to 0-1 on the season, while junior lefty Kyle McGrath (Louisville, Ky./Eastern Kentucky) pitched a perfect inning of relief in the top of the 14th to earn his first win as a Cardinal and cap a terrific day for the Louisville pitching staff. Overall, four Cardinal pitchers combined to allow only three unearned runs on nine hits while striking out a season-high 17 batters in Friday’s 14-inning affair.
Junior righty Chad Green (Effingham, Ill./Effingham HS) started the day for Louisville allowing the trio of unearned runs, all in the second inning, while giving up five hits to go with five strikeouts in seven strong innings. He was followed out of the bullpen by freshman righty Anthony Kidston (Defiance, Ohio/Defiance HS), who struck out five while allowing only two hits in three shutout innings of relief. Sophomore righty Nick Burdi (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South HS) took over from there with three more shutout innings of relief striking out a career-best seven and allowing only one hit before McGrath pitched the final inning for the Cardinals.
At the plate, Young was 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored, while Ratajczak and junior designated hitter Jeff Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy) added two hits each as Louisville finished with an 11-9 advantage in hits.
Louisville scored early in the series-opener plating two runs on four hits in the opening frame against Alabama starter Charley Sullivan. Ratajczak started the inning with a one-out single to left center. After moving to second on a wild pitch and advancing to third on a groundout, Ratajczak scored the first run of the day on an RBI single through the left side by Young. Later in the inning, Young moved to second on a single by Sturgeon before scoring on an RBI single by Gardner for the 2-0 lead.
The advantage was short-lived however as the Crimson Tide took advantage of a pair of Louisville errors to plate three runs in the following inning to take a 3-2 lead. With two outs and a runner at second base, Alabama broke through for its first run of the inning when second baseman Kyle Overstreet reached base on a fielding error by Louisville first baseman Zak Wasserman (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore HS), which allowed third baseman Kenny Roberts to score from second. After advancing to second on the error, Overstreet scored moments later on an RBI single up the middle by designated hitter Andrew Miller to even the score. The Crimson Tide closed the inning with an RBI single through the right side by leftfielder Ryan Blanchard to score Miller and breakup the 2-2 tie.
Following a pair of scoreless innings, Louisville evened things up at 3-3 in the fifth inning thanks to a two-out rally against Sullivan. Engel started the threat with a double down the left field before scoring moments later on an RBI single to center by Ratajczak.
From there, the pitching staffs for both teams dominated as they combined for eight straight scoreless innings before Louisville’s game-winning moment in the 14th.
The two teams will continue their weekend slate on Saturday at 1 p.m., ET, while Sunday’s series finale is also scheduled for a 1 p.m., first pitch. Admission is free throughout the weekend.
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